German brand Mercedes-Benz has issued a formal apology to China, its largest market for luxury vehicles, after posting an image on Instagram which uses a quote from Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama.
The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist, and has been exiled since 1959. Mercedes uploaded an image to its Instagram account, which showed one of its vehicles alongside a quote from the Buddhist monk, which said: "Look at the situation from all angles, and you will become more open."
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Instagram is banned in China, which means the post would only have been visible to users outside of the Chinese mainland. But eagle-eyed residents soon criticised the post, with some even claiming they would boycott the brand after seeing the post.
This isn't the first time careless action by companies regarding the Tibetan separatist movement has caused controversy. American hotel chain Marriott was caught in uproar earlier this year after issuing a customer survey that listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries to China.
Beijing now demands compliance on matters such as this from international businesses. Mercedes issued an apology on Chinese social network Weibo, saying: "We offer our sincerest apology after we noticed we posted an advertisement on the international social media that contained a grave mistake.
"Even though we deleted the message as soon as possible, we deeply understand how it has hurt the feelings of the Chinese people."
The government run newspaper, the People's Daily, ran an editorial piece just hours after Mercedes apologised. It didn't exactly scream forgiveness, saying: "The post was malicious in intent. It's not just an offence. It defies the Chinese people.
"Why should some companies rake in gold from the Chinese market while hurting the Chinese people? Holding up the stinky feet of the Dalai Lama equals turning itself against the Chinese people."