WASHINGTON – Two Republican lawmakers lashed out Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz for apologizing in China for quoting Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in a social media post.
Sen. Marco Rubio complained that many major companies "are increasingly prepared to toe Beijing's line." Rep. Chris Smith called it "corporate capitulation."
Last week, Mercedes-Benz issued an apology in China after a Dalai Lama quote — "Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open" — appeared on its Instagram account. The auto company apologized for "wrong information" that "hurt the feelings of Chinese people."
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, of seeking to split the territory of Tibet from China. He says he only wants autonomy and to protect the region's distinctive Buddhist culture.
The apology followed a series of incidents in which major corporations have bowed to criticism from China. Delta Air Lines, hotel operator Marriott, fashion brand Zara and other companies have also offered up apologies for referring to self-ruled Taiwan, semi-autonomous Hong Kong, and Tibet as countries on websites or promotional material.
Smith, an arch critic of China's authoritarian government, singled out Delta and Marriott for apologizing, and declared: "Corporate America needs to get more of a backbone." Rubio said there was a "grim irony" in China demanding the removal of a post on Instagram, which is blocked inside China.
The lawmakers were speaking at a hearing on Tibet of the Congressional Executive Commission China which monitors human rights and the rule of law in the Asian nation. Among the witnesses was Tibetan filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen, who fled to America last December after serving a six-year prison term for "subversion of state power." He had distributed writings of the Dalai Lama and made a documentary on conditions in the Himalayan territory.