Beijing Communists Fine 7-Eleven Thousands of Dollars for Calling Taiwan a Country

A woman walks into a 7-Eleven store in Washington, DC on January 10, 2018. US immigration agents raided nearly 100 7-Eleven convenience stores around the country, sending a warning to businesses not to hire illegal immigrants, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty …
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

The municipal government of Beijing slapped the 7-Eleven convenience store chain with an ominous warning and roughly $23,500 in fines for violating Chinese Communist Party speech codes, including such “errors” as the “wrongful act of assigning Taiwan province as an independent country” and using Japanese names for disputed islands claimed by China.

The fines were assessed in December but not made public until a report by Nikkei Asia on Friday. 

The roughly 260 7-Eleven stores in Beijing are run by a unit of Japanese retail company Seven & i Holdings. Beijing officials punished the company for referring to the “Senkaku Islands” by their Japanese name on its website. The islands are administered by Japan but claimed by China, which insists on calling them the “Diaoyu Islands.”

7-Eleven’s website allegedly also included “mistakes” in its representation of the borders for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, home of the brutally oppressed Uyghur Muslims, and the Tibet Autonomous Region. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the “mistakes” in the Tibetan borders involved territory disputed by China and India.

BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 08: Delegates and lawmakers leave after the second plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 8, 2021 in Beijing, China. The annual political gatherings of the National Peoples Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, known as the Two Sessions, brings together Chinas leadership and lawmakers to set the blueprint for the coming year. It is considered the most important event on the governments calendar and offers a rare glimpse at what President Xi Jinping and top officials see as priorities. With the pandemic largely under control in China, discussions this year are expected to signal Beijings intentions around technology competition, control over Hong Kong, and strategic threats posed by Western countries including the United States. The political meetings, held at the Great Hall of the People at the edge of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, can typically last for up to two weeks. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Delegates and lawmakers leave after the second plenary session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 8, 2021, in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Chinese Communist Party is particularly sensitive about any reference to Taiwan as an independent country. China frequently uses economic leverage to force foreign companies to change verbal or visual references to Taiwan on their websites that depict it as anything but a province of China. Taiwan is a sovereign state with no political ties to the government of China.

China has also forced foreign companies to change products that did not conform with Chinese Communist ideology, notoriously including a T-shirt sold by The Gap that showed an outline of China without depicting Taiwan and other islands it claims.

Nikkei Asia quoted a statement from Seven & i Holdings that “sincerely” accepted the punishment from Beijing. The company promised to “do our best to prevent a recurrence.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin addressed the 7-Eleven fine in a press conference on Friday, although he claimed not to have been aware of the story until a reporter brought it up.

“I would like to reiterate that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory and the one-China principle is a universally recognized norm in international relations and the consensus of the international community,” Wang said.

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