American fast food giant KFC opened a shop in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Tuesday, more than a decade after its first failed attempt. It became the first US-based fast food joint to set foot in China’s autonomous territory.
The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tiber and Nobel laureate, criticized the idea when it was first raised while critics pointed out the need for the firm to adhere to environmental and human rights concerns.
“KFC is now officially open, becoming the first international brand restaurant on the roof of the world. Everybody is welcome!” the city government of Lhasa posted on Weibo, a social networking service in China, which is akin to Twitter.
Pictures showed long queues outside the 1,640-square-foot restaurant that is housed in a shopping complex in the capital city, on the opening day. Local manager Yu Zhengqing told the China Daily that the store is expecting to draw 1,000 customers on average daily.
“As a diehard fan of KFC I waited in line for ages and felt like crying when I took my first lick of my ice cream cone,” the Yahoo News quoted an elated social media user as saying.
Alistair Currie, of London-based Free Tibet, said that Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, ensured that only Tibetans are hired at the restaurant and that the Tibetan language is used.
The International Campaign for Tibet said it was expecting a clarification from Yum Brands as to how it adhered to the US-Tibet Policy Act, which required investments that can protect and promote Tibetan culture and livelihoods, and its own pledges on corporate social responsibility.
“It is hard to see how they will be able to implement those principles given the political climate in Lhasa today,” said the International Campaign for Tibet president Matteo Macacci. “Tibetans are largely marginalized, economically disadvantaged and subject to a social and economic agenda imposed from the top down in order to ensure the control of the Chinese Communist Party over Tibet.”