From The Guardian – This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday April 09 2008 on p17 of the International section. It was last updated at 00:05 on April 09 2008.
First Tibetan exile groups attacked Coca-Cola for sponsoring the Olympic torch relay. Now the soft drink company is under fire from the other side of the political divide – with Chinese nationalists boycotting the brand after a blogger claimed one of its adverts supported Tibetan independence.
The poster – spotted in a German railway station – shows Buddhist monks on a rollercoaster with the slogan: “Make it real”. It stirred the ire of an expatriate Chinese blogger, who posted a photograph on the popular Tianya website. “Germany has started to really show adverts for Tibetan independence. Coca-Cola! Okay, I will remember. From now on I will not touch this shitty product,” he wrote, “The three monks represent Tibetan lamas. They are riding a rollercoaster, which represents freedom. ‘Make it real’ means ‘make this [ie freedom] real’,” he added.
While one commenter suggested his interpretation was “far-fetched”, many more leapt to his support, pledging to stop drinking Coca-Cola.
A spokesperson from Coca Cola said last night: “We regret if the use of an image featuring monks from an old print advertising campaign from 2003 has caused any offence. This was certainly not our intention … The old image was being used in the window of a shop in Bremen and has since been taken down … This image was designed to encourage people to try something new. The image is not linked to Tibet and is in no way an expression of support for any political issue … “