While bubble tea continues to be a favourite pick-me-up for many, some of the most popular Taiwanese chains that offer the drink are now at the receiving end of backlash from mainland Chinese social media users accusing them of supporting the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Now viral on China’s most popular social media app Weibo are pictures of a store notice in a Hong Kong branch of Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea that reads: “We are closing the business for a day with the rest of Hong Kong. Hongkongers, add oil.”
The phrase “add oil’ is an expression of encouragement and support that has been adopted by Hong Kong protestors.
“Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea, I don’t know if you’re joking or whether this is deliberate,” a Weibo user wrote. “If it is intentional, then I will never drink your tea ever again in my life.”
The post has amassed more than 24,000 likes on the platform.
Yifang’s distributor in China condemned the protests on Monday, soon after the issue broke, saying in a Weibo post that they are in favour of the “one country, two systems” principle set in place when the British handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.
However, its headquarters in Taiwan said on the same day that Yifang has no official Weibo account and that they have no intention of getting involved in politics. The company also apologised for alarming and agitating the public.
The owners of some Yifang branches have resisted against this.
“[We] fully support Hong Kong citizens who are bravely resisting the totalitarian government’s unreasonable treatment,” reads a statement from six Yifang branches in Taiwan posted on Facebook Monday.
Apart from the brand Yifang, social media users in mainland China have also called for a boycott on popular bubble tea chains CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice, Hey Tea, A Little Tea, and Gong Cha, which have been accused of having pro-democracy sentiments as well.
A photo of what looks like a CoCo receipt from June resurfaced recently because it bore the phrase “Hongkongers, add oil.” Meanwhile, Gong Cha lists down China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as separate territories on its website.
The social media backlash pushed HeyTea and Gong Cha to announce their support for the “one country, two systems” principle on their respective social media accounts, according to The Guardian.
Rallies have been going on in Hong Kong since June as a response against a proposed extradition bill that allows suspects to be tried in mainland China.
Infographic by Statista.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the extradition bill is “officially dead," but pro-democracy demonstrations continue to this day.
Earlier today, thousands of pro-democracy protestors wearing black clothing and face masks demonstrated at Hong Kong's airport, holding pamphlets with their demands. They're set to stay in the arrival halls of the airport for several days.