A China Central Television host urged Starbucks to withdraw its outlet from the Forbidden City because its existence spoils Chinese culture, Beijing News reported on Tuesday.
The Seattle-based coffee chain, the world's largest opened an outlet six years ago in the Forbidden City, the largest and most complete imperial palace and ancient building complex in the Chinese capital.
Rui Chenggang, a host of an English program on CCTV, said on his blog that the outlet humiliates Chinese culture and made a formal protest to Starbuck's chief executive and president, demanding the outlet be withdrawn.
Many netizens followed his post and supported his idea, but Starbucks have not responded.
Rui said the Starbucks in the Forbidden City has become a laughing-stock for educated westerners, since in their opinion, Starbucks should not exist in high-class environments.
Rui said he met the Starbucks CEO Jim Donald at a summit in Yale University, and suggested he withdraw the outlet in the Forbidden City, however, Donald replied that the decision was made by the former president.
Donald told Rui in a letter later that the Forbidden City invited Starbucks to open an outlet there six years ago, and that the company had tried its best to blend in with the surroundings to protect Chinese culture.
Rui said he planned to write another letter to Donald, telling him that the company's withdrawal would win more respect and more money from the Chinese.
Thousands of Chinese netizens have backed the campaign by Rui. His suggestion was backed by thousands of readers, who agreed that the coffee house was having a "damaging effect on China's heritage".
A netizen going by the name "wu83726bbc" wrote, "A Starbucks in the Forbidden City is a disgrace to Chinese culture." He also accused the museum administration of being slaves to money.
Another netizen named "Liushuirenjia" called for media campaigns to arouse the attention of officials who could determine he chain store's fate.
However, Wei Yingjie, an editor and columnist from Hangzhou, said in a comment piece in Tuesday's Beijing News that the Starbucks in the Forbidden City was not "trampling on Chinese culture". Wei describes its existence as "a dialogue between Capitalism ideology and traditional Chinese culture, which is common in today's China".
The museum authorities, however, refused to comment.
In 2000, Starbucks removed its eye-catching white-black-and-green logo from the Forbidden City outlet in response to visitors' protests.
In 2002, American fast food Kentucky Fried Chicken was removed from Beihai Park, north of the Forbidden City, after representatives to the local political advisory body raised objections.
(Shanghai Daily, Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2007)