The name of Vienna Hotels, a Chinese chain, sounds “too foreign” to the ears of the government and being changed. Fortunately, international chains and foreign companies are exempted.
Provinces and cities across China have been issuing notices pressuring both private and public officials to rename businesses, bridges, and neighborhoods, reflecting renewed efforts by President Xi Jinping’s government to “Sinicize” China.
The move came to light after Vienna Hotels, which according to its website operates 2,500 properties in China, fought back on social media, and get supported by many peoples immediately.
China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs confirmed Friday that the campaign is underway, but said that some local governments are not implementing the new rule accurately. It maintained though that foreign names have an ugly social influence that needs to be cleaned up. The post on the ministry’s website added that along with foreign names, names that are “weird, repetitive, or self-aggrandizing” should also be changed.
Local governments, from Inner Mongolia in the north to Hainan island off the southern coast, have been sending out instructions urging the change.
Last week, the Civil Affairs Department in Hainan posted on its official website a list of 84 names of hotels, neighborhoods, cinemas, roads and bridges in 10 cities, three counties, and one economic development zone. It said the names need to be cleaned up for several reasons, most of which had to do with “worshipping of and having blind faith in foreign things.”
Fifteen of the 84 names are hotels run by the Vienna Hotel Group. It also said its had complained to the Hainan Civil Affairs Department and is awaiting a response. Its brand is registered with the national trademark bureau from 2012 to 2022.
“This is improper, they did too much, it violates the rights of having a name freely,” said Chen Xiaoyang, a project operator in a technology company based in Beijing.
“If the hotels and neighborhoods have foreign names, they may not sound patriotic in the eyes of the authority, which likes to keep everything under control,” said Zhang Lijia, a writer and commentator.
You Yunting, an intellectual property lawyer in Shanghai, said the hotel names are trademarks that have been registered.
The name-correction campaign “is trampling the law,” he said. “It cannot be decided by personal preference.”