A tourist attraction in central China's Hubei province has caused an outcry on mainland social media after an influencer accused it of forcing domestic Chinese visitors to give up seats for 11 foreign tourists.
On September 10, Chinese travel influencer Lanzhanfei, a video blogger with nearly 4 million followers on Douyin, posted a video accusing the management of the Shengshi Tangcheng tourist site in Xiangyang city of discriminating against local tourists.
The influencer said he went to the site the night before to watch a featured evening performance but discovered staff had reserved some space for 11 foreign guests and would not allow local tourists to stand or sit in front of the area.
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According to Lanzhanfei, more than 1,000 tourists had gathered to watch the performance, for which he paid 126 yuan (US$17) for a ticket to see ancient Chinese-style performances, including horse riding, which the Tang dynasty-themed tourist site is renowned for.
He said he was further irritated when the site management postponed the show by seven minutes while they waited for the foreigners to take their seats after they arrived late.
"It is fine to greet your guests. You can shut the site and postpone the show however you like, but don't humiliate me and my ticket money," Lanzhanfei said in his video.
The video has been watched more than 4 million times on Douyin and caused outrage online after it was posted.
The site management issued a public apology on its official WeChat account less than nine hours after the influencer's video appeared.
It also offered all the tourists who attended the show that night a free access pass, valid for a year, as compensation for postponing the performance.
Many mainland internet observers did not accept the apology.
"It's a total humiliation. And the site wants to humiliate us again for another year with a free pass," said one person on Douyin.
"The apology is not sincere at all," said another.
Some compared the incident to a highly publicised case of discrimination against Chinese guests at German carmaker BMW's Mini trade booth at the Shanghai auto show in April.
Two Chinese staff members at the booth were directed to tell Chinese visitors that its free ice cream had run out before offering some to a Western man.
The company apologised twice on Chinese social media after the incident caused a public furore online.
However, some who attended the same Shengshi Tangcheng site performance as Lanzhanfei defended the management and accused the influencer of exaggerating the facts to attract followers.
A Douyin user, named Duojisheying, who said they were a local resident, posted a video claiming to contain Lanzhanfei's conversation with a staff member on the night of the performance.
In the video, the staff member can be heard offering to take the influencer to another seating area with a better view and refund his ticket, but he turned down the offer.
Duojisheying said they had seen the performance several times, and it was postponed "half of the time" because of the difficulty in clearing the area where spectators could watch the show safely, casting doubt on Lanzhanfei's claim the show had been postponed for tardy foreign guests.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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