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Lawmaker Demands Starbucks' Move from Forbidden City
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A Chinese lawmaker has proposed a motion to "immediately" move Starbucks out of the Forbidden City in Beijing, following an online slash on the presence of the US coffeehouse in the imperial palace.

"Starbucks must move out of the imperial palace immediately, and it can no longer be allowed to taint China's national culture,” said Jiang Hongbin, a deputy from the northeastern Heilongjiang Province to the National People's Congress (NPC), on the sidelines of the top legislature's annual session.

Jiang, president of the Heilongjiang Chia Tai Co., Ltd, said he has already submitted a motion on closing the Starbucks outlet in the 587-year-old royal residence also known as the Palace Museum.

The coffeehouse remains where it was two months after a TV news anchor initiated an online campaign to drive it out of the ancient palace, though the shop has had its outside logo taken off, said Jiang, urging further substantial steps to remove the exotic service's unmerited presence.

"As long as it stays in the imperial palace, it poses a challenge to our traditional culture," said Jiang.

Rui Chenggang, a news anchor of the China Central Television ( CCTV), asked Starbucks to move out of the Forbidden City in a blog article in January this year, which won backing of more than half a million netizens.

In response to the online boycott, the museum management promised to try to reach a solution with Starbucks by the end of June.

The Starbucks outlet opened in 2000 amid roaring "NOs" from the public.

The rent paid by Starbucks is used for maintenance of the palace, according to museum managers.

"But we should know not everything can be exchanged for money even in the market economy. The Forbidden City is one of the untradable products as its value cannot be measured with money," Jiang argued.

Covering more than 720,000 square meters in downtown Beijing, the Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors before the end of imperial rule in 1911. It was listed as a World Heritage Site by the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nations in 1987.

The museum is a top tourist attraction in the national capital, which receives some 7 million visitors a year.

(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2007)

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