|The banner at an Chinese Audi dealership reads, “Even if the whole of China is covered with tombs, [we] must kill all Japanese; even if no grass grows in China….”|
September 20, 2012
Volkswagen AG’s luxury Audi (NSU) unit asked a Chinese dealer to remove a banner advocating the murder of Japanese people after a photograph of the sign went viral on the Internet amid escalating tensions between the two countries.
The anti-Japan message captured in the photo of the unidentified dealership doesn’t reflect Audi’s views, said Lu Minjie, a spokeswoman at FAW-Volkswagen Automotive Co., the venture that makes Audi-brand cars in China. Audi, which counts China as its biggest market, asked its dealers to be reasonable in expressing patriotism, she said.
The photo, spread via China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, showed 14 people — half of them women — posing in front of an Audi dealership under a red banner that read “Japanese must all be killed.” Tension between Asia’s two largest economies escalated in the past week as thousands protested in Chinese cities against the Japanese government’s purchase of the disputed islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.
“It’s okay for them to protest against Japan, but they can’t be talking about killing people,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research in Shanghai. “Most people would be surprised and disappointed in Audi if they didn’t take a very strong stance.”
In the undated photo, dealership employees smiled at the camera with their fists up in the air as two men dressed in dark suits hoisted a banner stretching across more than 20 feet (6 meters) that read: “Japanese must all be killed even if it means China is covered in graves. Diaoyu must be reclaimed even if China becomes barren land.”
Audi immediately got in touch with its Chinese joint- venture partner after the photo appeared Sept. 17, said Andrea Seltmann, an Audi spokeswoman based in Ingolstadt, Germany. The Chinese partner then told dealers to refrain from such activities, she said.
“For us it was important to make sure that these activities do not involve Audi employees,” she said. “The dealers are independent though, but the banner was removed and we had no other similar issues since then.”
On Audi’s Japan website, the company expressed regret for the incident.