champion baker from Taiwan is under fire from both sides of the straits after his past remarks were interpreted by mainland Chinese as advocating for the island’s independence, and his latest attempts at clarification derided by Taiwanese as betrayal.
Previous comments by Wu Pao Chun, who claimed the title of Master Baker at the 2010 Masters of Boulangerie competition in Paris, recently bubbled up again over the opening of his eponymous bakery in Shanghai this December. In a 2016 interview with Taiwan People News, Wu said he was uninterested in opening in the mainland then: “China has a market of 1.3 billion people, but the whole world has more than 7 billion people, so I won’t just look to China.”
Mainland netizens interpreted Wu’s statement as support for Taiwanese independence and flooded the store’s page on Dianping, a Chinese food review platform, with hateful comments and patriotic images. The listing has since been taken down.
A post on Chinese social media site Weibo calling Wu “the light of Taiwan who rather die of hunger than go to the mainland” has been shared over 57,000 times.
In a December 10 statement on Facebook and Weibo, Wu claimed he never made such a remark and that he supported “the 1992 Consensus,” referring to the agreement that recognizes Taiwan as part of China. “As a baker born in Taiwan, China,” he said, “Taiwan is the land that raised me. And I’m proud of being Chinese. ‘The people across the Strait are family’ is the principle that I’ve always insisted on upholding.”
However, Wu’s remarks were slammed by Taiwanese as traitorous. Many also called for a boycott of his bakeries.
On December 11, Wu held a news conference with Kuomintang mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu, a Beijing-friendly politician. “I am a baker,” Wu said, “and my specialty is making bread.” Han added: “There are too many political issues, he’s not the one to deal with them, just let him do a good job in the bread profession.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen also chimed in on the incident, describing it as “political oppression” while former Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan called it “humiliating for Taiwanese.” Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je only had this to say: “Poor thing.”
Wu Pao Chun first opened his bakery in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung in 2010. The store’s most famous product is its rose-lychee bread, which won Wu the title, and has since expanded to four branches across the island.
Earlier this year, Wu teamed up with Singapore-based restaurant group BreadTalk to expand into the mainland, with outlets planned in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore. In Shanghai, Wu Pao Chun is located at Xintiandi Plaza and will officially open on December 18.
This is not the first time a Taiwanese bakery has felt the wrath of mainland Chinese citizens. In August this year, 85°C Bakery Cafe came under attack for serving Taiwanese President Tsai in Los Angeles during her stop there. While the chain came out in support of China’s territorial claims, it was still heavily lambasted and removed from mainland food review and delivery apps. They have since been restored back on the platforms.