Wanda firm fined over ads on red scarves

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A subsidiary of real estate giant Wanda Group has been fined 344,700 yuan ($49,700) for printing an advertisement on red scarves-a symbol of the Chinese Young Pioneers-and distributing them to students.

Wanda Plaza Business Administration Corp was told to stop running the promotion, which aimed to drum up interest in a new shopping mall in Heze, Shandong province, news website Dazhong reported on Saturday.

Netizens criticized the company last month when it emerged that Wanda employees had handed out red scarves emblazoned with ads to students at Danyanglu Primary School during a road safety awareness event.

Red neckerchiefs are traditionally worn by the Young Pioneers, a group founded by the Communist Party of China in 1949 for children ages 6 to 14. The scarves represent the national flag and symbolize China's revolutionary tradition.

"The company's actions not only seriously affected students' studies, values and psychological health but also violated China's Advertisement Law," the market regulation administration of Heze's economic development zone said in a notice over the weekend.

Wanda apologized for the incident on Sept 29 and said the three senior managers responsible had been fired.

Lyu Yongmei, the principal of Danyanglu Primary School, received a "serious warning" from the zone's Party committee for allowing commercial activities to take place on school grounds.

On Oct 12, the Ministry of Education issued a warning for kindergartens, primary schools and middle schools nationwide to avoid all commercial activities. It said the incident in Heze was "very bad in nature", and urged local authorities to draw lessons from it and take measures to prevent advertising at schools and kindergartens.

The ministry called on local education departments to check all schools and kindergartens for ads on textbooks, stationery, school buses and other objects.

In addition, the ministry, the Communist Youth League of China Central Committee and the Young Pioneers National Working Commission issued a statement on Friday aimed at regulating the use of red scarves and other symbols of the Young Pioneers.

Local authorities should work together to prevent commercial activities on campuses and hold people who violate the rules accountable, they said.

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