McDonald's and Starbucks face backlash after opening locations in a cultural heritage site in China

Conservationists are protesting fast-food chains opening in an historic site in Hangzhou, China.

Officials decided earlier this year to lease a cultural heritage site, which housed former Taiwanese president Chiang Ching-kuo for a short period in 1948, to McDonald’s and Starbucks despite controversy, reports the BBC. A 100-seat McCafe opened recently on the first story, and a Starbucks location opened upstairs a month earlier.

The decision to rent out the villa was reportedly influenced by the need to cover maintenance costs.

The villa, located near the city’s famous West Lake, was designated a cultural heritage site by Hangzhou officials in 2003.

Despite the short length of Chiang Ching-kuo’s in the home, conservationists argue that the site is symbol of China and Taiwan’s shared history, and should be turned into a museum exploring the relationship between the two countries.

“When McDonald’s China took over the site, we also took over the commitment to preserve its heritage,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement. “Since then, we have been working with relevant authorities and architects to ensure the conservation of the villa’s structure and style. We remain committed to this protection while providing a convenient spot for tourists to rest and enjoy the surrounding environment.”

The area surrounding West Lake is a major tourist spot in Hangzhou. The area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, as it has served as an inspiration for famous poets, scholars, and artists since the 9th century.

With tourists, of course, comes fast-food. Even prior to the opening of the Western chains in Chiang’s villa, the area surrounding West Lake was peppered with McDonald’s and Starbucks.

 

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