BEIJING/SHANGHAI—Mercedes-Benz apologized to Chinese consumers after publishing an Instagram post showing one of its luxury cars along with a quote from exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a dangerous separatist.
In a statement on its official Weibo—a platform similar to Twitter—on Feb. 6, the German car maker said it had deleted the controversial post immediately, and offered its apology to Chinese people, in a sign that foreign brands are growing more wary of the reputational damage when they stray from Beijing’s official stances on political issues.
In a “MondayMotivation” post on Instagram, Mercedes showed one of its white cars on a beach along with a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama: “Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open.”
The post soon drew criticism from nationalistic Chinese netizens. The Chinese Communist Party invaded Tibet in 1949, and has since exacted harsh control over Tibetans’ way of life, especially in regards to suppression of their Tibetan Buddhist faith. But the Party has continually promulgated its stance that Tibet is a part of China.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after Tibetans attempted and failed an uprising for independence.
Foreign brands in China are trying to court Chinese shoppers who have growing purchasing power, but have gotten into crosshairs with Chinese authorities over its territorial claims.
Last month, foreign firms including Delta Air Lines and Spanish apparel maker Zara were reprimanded by Chinese authorities for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on their websites. Beijing claims its sovereignty over both areas.
Marriott International’s website in China was shut down by regulators after it caused a similar uproar, inviting boycotts from Chinese consumers.
Reporting by Pei Li and Adam Jourdan. Annie Wu of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.