Major Chinese online platform apologizes for ‘disrespecting history’
Published: Jan 03, 2021 11:22 PM

Meituan photo:VCG

Meituan, a major Chinese e-commerce platform for recommending locally found consumer products, retail services and touristic sites, issued an apology on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Saturday in response to criticism that it had disrespected Chinese history by giving historical sites inappropriate tags. 

Earlier on Saturday, an observant netizen pointed out on Sina Weibo that Meituan had labeled the Memorial Hall of The Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders as a place for “body and soul relaxation” as well as for “entertainment.” 

The tags became the target of criticism on Sina Weibo, with netizens calling the enterprise culturally insensitive and lacking in social responsibility, and asking the platform for an apology. 

“Relaxation for the body and soul – I went there before and can’t describe how depressed I was while visiting it,” one netizen posted on Sina Weibo. 

“What is wrong with Meituan? I’m here waiting for you to say something,” wrote another. 

Netizens were not the only ones to object to the label, the Memorial Hall of The Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders also replied to Meituan on Sina Weibo, saying that the Memorial Hall is not for entertainment.   

“Our institution is a site for a national memorial ceremony; it bears the responsibility of remembering history and cherishing peace. If you want to relax your body and mind or are looking for entertainment, go somewhere else,” the Memorial Hall wrote in the post. 

Meituan responded later that same day, not only fulfilling netizens’ requests for an apology, but also changing the tag for the Memorial Hall on the platform to “a place for remembering history and holding a national memorial ceremony.” 

The Memorial Hall was not the only place on the platform to be inappropriately tagged. Meituan has also given confusing labels to other historical sites such as labeling an Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall in Beijing as a place for “indoor gaming” as well as using the tag “barbecue” to describe a New Fourth Army historical research community.  

Though such tags have been criticized, some netizens showed support for Meituan on Sina Weibo, suggesting that the mistakes were automatically generated from an algorithm. 

“Maybe something is wrong with the algorithm or it might be a generic default setting that each different individual business on Meituan can change manually? Since the Memorial Hall is not a particular business, so…,” posted one netizen.

“I don’t think Meituan did this deliberately,” wrote another. 

After the apology, Meituan also announced that in the future it will implement human supervision of automated tags and collaborate with tourist sites and nationwide patriotic education bases to supervise relevant online information published on its platform. 

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