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Starbucks in Forbidden City closed
2007-07-13 04:56:05 Xinhua English

BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) -- A Starbucks coffee shop inside Beijing's Forbidden City has been closed amid planners' hopes to serve the tourists more diverse drinks.

The U.S. coffee chain was closed on Friday afternoon at the former home of Chinese emperors and its logo was removed from the traditional Chinese style window panes.

A souvenir store next to the coffee shop was also closed.

A manager of the Forbidden City, known in China as the Palace Museum, said its management had offered to continue serving Starbucks coffee alongside other brands at a planned beverage store that will also sell domestic coffee.

He said Starbucks turned down the offer.

"The company insisted it wanted an independent cafe of its own," said Li Wenru, vice curator of the Palace Museum. He foresees little chance to continue the cooperation with Starbucks.

Phone calls to Starbucks Coffee Company in Beijing were unanswered on Saturday.

Management of the Palace Museum is determined to provide more diverse food, drinks and souvenirs in the forthcoming overhaul of the service area close to the Hall of Preseving Harmony, said YangXiaobo, an official in charge of planning.

"We found through a survey that most visitors -- from China and abroad -- hope to taste some imperial food at the emperors' former home."

Meanwhile, 60 percent of the visitors said they were most interested in souvenirs featuring the Palace Museum itself but sold for less than 200 yuan.

"We're tailoring a new snack menu and developing new souvenirs to meet the tourists' demand," Yang said.

By May 2008, more than 1,000 categories of the new souvenirs will be on sale at franchised stores inside the Forbidden City, twice as many as what is available now, he said.

A news anchor of the China Central Television asked Starbucks to move out of the Forbidden City in a blog article this January, and was backed by more than half a million Internet users.

In response to the online boycott, the museum management promised to reach a solution with Starbucks by the end of June.

A member of China's parliament revived the call at this year's session of the National People's Congress in March, saying the American coffee shop posed a challenge to traditional Chinese culture.

Yet a opinion piece on Saturday's Beijing Morning Post questioned the Chinese "cultural tolerance" over the Starbucks issue.

"Why do some of the Chinese nationals are so hostile toward foreign companies that enter such landmarks as the Forbidden City, but feel so proud when a Chinese businessman buys into a German airport?"

The author refers to Pang Yuliang from central Henan Province, president of a logistics company, Linde Group, known in English as LinkGlobal Logistics Co., who acquired Parchim Airport in northern Germany at a cost of one billion yuan.

He was the first Chinese citizen ever to acquire the permanent operating rights to a European airport.

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