Taiwan Bakery Chain Disappears From Major Chinese Food Apps Amid Taiwan President’s Visit to US

August 16, 2018 Updated: August 16, 2018

SHANGHAI/TAIPEI—Chinese food delivery platforms Meituan-Dianping and Ele.me have taken down listings for Taiwan’s 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery Cafe, checks on their apps showed, amid boycott calls from social media users who said the chain supported Taiwan independence.

The move by the Chinese companies comes after 85 Degrees, which has 628 stores in mainland China, was hit by calls for a boycott on Chinese social media. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen had been photographed on Aug. 12 visiting one of its Los Angeles stores during her visit to the United States.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and Beijing, which considers it a wayward province, has in recent months become increasingly critical of how international companies refer to the self-ruled, democratic island.

Checks on Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping and Alibaba-owned Ele.me’s apps on Aug. 16 showed that the option for users to order food deliveries from 85 Degrees stores was no longer available.

The Dianping app, which lists reviews and locations for restaurants and shops, displayed the message “unable to find appropriate merchant” when one tried to search for 85 Degrees’ stores.

Meituan-Dianping declined to comment while Ele.me and 85 Degrees did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It was not clear when 85 Degrees’ listing was taken down from the apps but Chinese state media reported it on Aug. 16.

On Aug. 15, 85 Degrees issued a statement on its mainland Chinese website in response to criticism about Tsai’s visit, saying that it firmly supported the “one China policy” and encouraged the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait.

Huang Chung-yen, a spokesman for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, said 85 Degrees was subject to “unwarranted pressure” and forced to release a “humiliating” statement, adding that Taiwan condemned such actions against freedom of speech.

Shares in Gourmet Master Company Ltd, 85 Degrees’ parent company, dropped 7.5 percent to their lowest in more than a year, compared with a 0.3 percent fall in the broader market.

Companies from airlines, such as Air Canada, to retailers, such as Gap and Muji, have apologized for or changed the way they refer to Taiwan in recent months after complaints from Beijing.

Many mainland Chinese social media users said on Aug. 16 that they supported the removal of 85 Degrees from the food delivery apps, but some lamented that customers were also penalized.

“Politics is politics and business is business, but us people are innocent, we should not wrap it all up in each other,” said one with the username “shengxiaomei.”

By Brenda Goh and Yimou Lee