Japanese retailer Muji has been slapped with a fine of 200,000 yuan (around HK$245,000) by China for listing Taiwan as a “country of origin” on the packaging for clothes hangers.

This is the second time this year Muji’s products have caused controversy in China, after a map in its 2017 autumn-winter furniture catalogue omitted disputed islands which China claims as its own.

According to mainland media, 119 clothes hangers imported from Japan to Muji’s Shanghai company last August were wrapped in packaging that stated “Made in Taiwan, Country of Origin: Taiwan.” They were sold on the retailer’s official Taobao page and offline branches.

A Muji store in Singapore. Photo: Banej via Wikicommons.

The Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce said in a statement that Muji violated advertising laws which stipulate that ads cannot harm the country’s dignity or interests. Muji did not properly carry out its duty of inspecting the goods before allowing them to enter the market, the regulator added.

Muji has since amended the packaging. The company was fined 200,000 yuan on April 2 over the incident, which was reported this week by mainland media.

China does not recognise Taiwan as a country and has long pressured the international community over its status and the use of the Republic of China flag. Beijing maintains that the island-nation is a renegade province of China.

Taiwan flag. Photo: Alan Wu via Flickr.

A series of companies have apologised to China as the country ramps up efforts to claim sovereignty over territories such as Tibet and Taiwan. Last week, US clothing retailer Gap apologised to China over a T-shirt with a map showing the mainland but not Taiwan.

Earlier this month, Australian broadcaster ABC reported that a regional council in Queensland covered up two Taiwanese flags painted by Taiwan-born siblings on a bull statue created to celebrate the community’s cultural diversity. The mayor later revealed that the decision came after Brisbane’s Chinese vice consul contacted the council.

The White House has called China’s demands for American airlines to classify Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories “Orwellian nonsense.”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.