Houston Community News >> Chinese Lawmakers Wants Starbucks Ousted From Forbidden City

3/11/2007 BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese lawmaker revived calls for the removal of a Starbucks coffee shop from Beijing's famed Forbidden City, saying its presence was a smear on China's historical legacy, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

Jiang Hongbin, a deputy from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, said he submitted a motion to the National People's Congress, the country's legislature, to close the outlet immediately, Xinhua said.

Starbucks "can no longer be allowed to taint China's national culture," Jiang was quoted as saying.

The outlet has stirred controversy among Chinese nationalists ever since it opened in 2000 in a side hall of the 587-year-old former home of China's Ming and Qing dynasty emperors, now a museum visited by 7 million people each year.

Calls for it to close grew again in January when a television host launched an online campaign to toss it out. Museum managers and the government haven't responded publicly to the demands.

It wasn't clear whether Jiang's motion would be discussed by the nearly 3,000-member congress, which meets in full session only once a year and is widely regarded as a rubber stamp for policies decided by the government.

Defenders say the Starbucks is popular with tourists and its rent helps pay for the upkeep of the sprawling vermillion-walled, 178-acre complex of villas and gardens, now undergoing a thorough renovation ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games.

However, Jiang said the integrity of Chinese culture should take precedence over funding concerns.

"The Forbidden City is one of the non-tradable products as its value cannot be measured with money," Jiang said. "As long as it (Starbucks) stays in the imperial palace, it poses a challenge to our traditional culture."

(Contributed by AP)