- Shanghai academic posted a picture of a poster in a branch on Weibo to highlight English language errors – but he hadn’t noticed the ‘problem map’
- Bank staff bombarded him with messages and four even went round to his house to beg him to remove the post
A Shanghai academic who tried to highlight a major bank's English mistakes complained that he was subjected to a campaign of harassment from its staff because he had also exposed the fact that its map of China excluded Taiwan.
Jason Chu, an assistant professor at a university in the city, complained that members of the bank staff had even visited him at home to pressure him to delete his social media posts.
"I didn't even notice the map. I only saw the English translation problems," Chu said later.
The trouble started on Tuesday, when he shared two photos taken at a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) with his 157,000 followers on Weibo.
The picture showed various everyday items with captions in English and Chinese " but the umbrella, wheelchair and pram had all been translated as "writing board".
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But other web users quickly noticed the potential problems with the map of China shown on the poster.
The authorities have been cracking down on "problem maps" that do not include Taiwan, which Beijing sees as an integral part of China.
In October, the production company behind the television romance Go Go Squid was fined 100,000 yuan (US$14,000) for showing a map of China that did not include the islands of Taiwan and Hainan.
Within hours of publishing the pictures online, the professor was bombarded with text and WeChat messages, he said. His colleagues and friends were contacted by ICBC employees in an attempt to pressure Chu to delete the Weibo post, he said.
One of the messages the professor received said the entire ICBC Shanghai division had panicked over Chu's Weibo post, and some bank officials feared they could their jobs, he said.
"The poster had been hanging there for how long, you guys didn't panic. I sent a Weibo post, then you panic?" Chu asked.
In a now deleted post on WeChat, Chu wrote that when he returned home at around 10.20pm on Tuesday night, four bank employees were waiting for him outside his flat.
When asked how they found his address, they said they had looked up his account details.
They told him that they were desperate and needed him to remove the post so it could not be used against them.
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But Chu, who refused to remove the post, said neither the translation errors nor the map were his fault and complained that what the bank had done constituted "an invasion of privacy and harassment".
"I don't know if your bank's rules and regulations allow this but China's law does not seem to allow this," Chu told them.
His post continued: "(I) humbly suggest to the very wise leaders of ICBC that if you have the gusto for office politics and the energy for having a client ambushed in the dead of night, should you not spend more time improving your financial products and raising your stock prices?"
A representative from ICBC Shanghai said on Friday that it had received feedback from a customer about a problem found in a branch. When bank staff tried to contact the customer after correcting the issue, the customer said this had affected his daily life.
"For this, we sincerely apologise to the customer … We welcome monitoring and care from the wider public," the bank representative said.
The professor said he had received an apology from an ICBC employee in the form of a text message but intended to complain to Shanghai's Banking Regulatory Commission.
"I hope the banking regulatory commission will kindly consider inspecting ICBC's apparently unlawful behaviour, with an eye on enhancing the rule of law in China's financial industry," he said.
He said also that as of Wednesday, the ICBC branch had replaced the poster with one that had a map icon showing Shanghai instead of China " and with the correct English translations in all the captions.
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