DHARAMSHALA: Tibetans and Tibet supporters took to social media today to express disappointment with German car manufacturer Daimler which owns the brand – Mercedes Benz. The giant German luxury car maker has issued an apology to China yesterday after it used a quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on its official page of photo sharing app Instagram.
The quote “Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open,” posted as part of the company’s #mondaymotivation was taken down after it was reported that Chinese netizens had allegedly expressed outrage.
In no time, the car maker issued a statement, apologising to Chinese netizens for ‘hurting their sentiments.’ The statement said: “This morning, we released a very incorrect message on international social media,” the apology began. The automaker said it had offended the feelings of its consumers and employees in China. “In light of this, we will immediately take measures to deepen our understanding of Chinese culture and values, including our overseas colleagues, to ensure this won’t happen again.”
This step by Mercedes Benz was criticized by many Tibetans and Tibet supporters as kowtowing to China and taking a back step on free speech. Growing voices against the move by the company pointed to the irony that photo-sharing app Instagram isn’t even available to Chinese netizens inside China except through VPN (which is illegal in China).
Kai Müller, Executive Director in Germany, of International Campaign for Tibet, reacted: “The behavior of the car maker is a shameful kowtowing to dictatorship.”
“Mercedes-Benz not only adapts to the language rules of the Chinese Communist Party, but even pledges to support Beijing in its worldwide effort to export its censorship. This seems almost ironic in light of the Dalai Lama’s quotation that was used: Look at situations from all angles and you will become more open,” he added.
Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted: My German is admittedly rusty, but apparently @MercedesBenz slogan “Das Beste oder nicht” actually means “We’ll lick Beijing’s boots.” @WenzelMichalski #China #DalaiLama
Anthony OBrien and Neil Steedman from the Tibet support group based in Ireland wrote letter to the editor of Irish Times, denouncing the step by Mercedes.
“The irony is that Chinese citizens cannot even access Instagram through state censorship to be “upset” in the first place. But such is the lure of the Chinese marketplace that Mercedes are happily kowtowing to Beijing’s dictatorship, showing contempt for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and for the democratic values of their customers worldwide,” they wrote.
On twitter and facebook, the hashtag #MercedesBenzOverForChina has started trending apparently over the company bending over to secure its market in China.
However, the case of Mercedes Benz is not the first case of corporations kowtwoing to China for profits and market accessibility. Just a few weeks ago, the US hotel chain Marriott International offered apologies to China for listing Tibet as a country in their survey questionnaire.
Likewise, Qantas Airways, Delta airways, car-maker Audi, fashion house ZARA, all had to express similar apologies in recent times for what they referred to as ‘hurting the Chinese people.’
The Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is a Nobel laureate for peace, is an immensely popular figure all over the world especially in Germany, the host nation of Mercedes Benz. According to a YouGov poll conducted in 2015, the Dalai Lama ranked second in the poll for most admired person in Germany.