A Chinese restaurant has put up a huge banner to celebrate the fact that the United States and Japan have been hit by the novel coronavirus.
The red banner was placed in front of the restaurant yesterday and read: ‘Huge congratulations to the American epidemic and long live the epidemic in little Japan.’
The owner of the local restaurant franchise in north-eastern China’s Shenyang has been sacked after the company faced backlash on social media.
The restaurant owner, known by their surname Hui, installed the banner – without alerting the head office beforehand – as an attempt to attract customers, said the franchise, Mama Yang, in a statement.
The food chain said the controversial sign was taken down within two hours and Hui had been detained by local police for further investigation. ‘We are deeply sorry for the negative societal effect it has caused,’ the statement continued.
It has sparked outrage on Chinese social media after the Japanese press reported on the incident. ‘This is so, so embarrassing,’ one commenter wrote on the Chinese Twitter-like Weibo.
Another one said: ‘It represents a large number of Chinese people with narrow-minded nationalism.’
Anti-Japan sentiment has been deep-rooted among Chinese nationalists as territorial disputes and the Second World War grievances have marred the Japan-China relationship for decades.
The Japanese Imperial Army was responsible for the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, a campaign of rape, murder, and looting, in which an estimated 300,000 people died.
Japanese air strikes during the war also inflicted severe damage on Chinese civilians in Chongqing, killing an estimated 32,000 people.
Tensions between the two countries flared when the dispute over the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea inflamed nationalistic sentiment on both sides and impaired economic ties.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 82,000 people in China and the death toll has surpassed 3,200.
Worldwide, nearly 20,000 people have been killed by the contagion and around 430,000 people have been infected.