Cafe Opens in Forbidden City to Replace Starbucks

BEIJING ~ A state-run cafe has opened in Beijing’s Forbidden City on the premises where Starbucks closed down earlier this year amid charges the US chain sullied the site, state media said.

The Forbidden City Cafe, managed by the authorities that oversee the historic imperial quarters, serves both coffee and traditional Chinese tea, the Xinhua news agency reported late Sunday.

“We want to provide tourists with a package of products relating to the imperial palace and Chinese culture,” Li Wenru, deputy curator of the Forbidden City, was quoted as saying.

In July, Starbucks closed its coffee shop, which it had operated in the Forbidden City since 2000, after declining to offer other brands for sale to customers.

The Starbucks outlet had been controversial since it opened in the palace, the former home of China’s emperors and one of the most important Chinese cultural heritage sites.

To be more discrete, two years ago Starbucks removed its distinctive sign from the cafe, which was one of its 190 shops in China.

Last January, Chinese television presenter Rui Chenggang called on Starbucks to leave the Forbidden City, saying that the cafe undermined the “solemnity of the Forbidden City and (trampled on) Chinese culture.”

Thousands of internet users supported his view, which sparked extensive coverage in the official press.

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