The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Lips posts sign saying Japanese not allowed until islands given to China

thumb LIPSsignA beltline karaoke bar catering to Asian communities in Calgary has come under fire for discrimination on the popular social networking site Reddit.com this weekend.

A picture posted on Reddit taken inside Lips KTV & Club shows a Chinese sign stating that Japanese patrons wouldn't be permitted on the premises due to tensions between China and Japan over a disputed set of islands.

 

"Assumedly because of the dispute over the Diaoyu between the Chinese and the Japanese, the Chinese karaoke place Lips is displaying a sign forbidding Japanese people from their establishment," said photo submitter Lancedragons. "This kinda stuff is sad to see in a city as multicultural as Calgary."

This type of discrimination is clearly outlined as illegal in section four, part B LipsFacebookA screenshot taken from Lips KTV & Club’s Facebook page confirms that Japanese customers are not welcome.

Screenshot courtesy of Reddit user Lancedragons
of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which states:

No person shall

(b) discriminate against any person or class of persons with respect to any goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public, because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons or of any other person or class of persons.

Holes in the story

When asked about the sign, Lily Liu, supervisor at Lips KTV & Club, told the Calgary Journal that her off-duty manager came in with friends, "had drinks, and wrote this sign."

The battle over the islands

An uninhabited chain of islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have been the centre of a bitter dispute between the countries for decades. A report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) indicates the possibility of billions of litres of oil in the area around the islands. They are also strategically important from a military standpoint as shipping lanes, and the owners of the islands would have rights to the rich fishing and mineral deposits in the vicinity.

The argument over ownership extends back to the late 1800's, when Japan says they saw no trace of Chinese occupancy during a land survey in 1885, and recognized them officially as Japanese territory in 1895. They were later sold to descendants of original Japanese settlers in 1932, who have claimed possession of the islands since then. The Chinese have maintained that they occupied the islands long before Japan surveyed the land, and that the islands rightfully belong to them.

Tensions boiled between the two countries when Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently announced that the country was in final negotiations to buy the islands from the private owners. Violent protests have flared up across China, and China has recently sent in six surveillance ships to monitor the islands, ignoring warnings from the Japanese authorities.

Liu – who refused to disclose the managers name - said that the sign went unnoticed for hours due to the high volume of clientele at the venue that evening, but it was erased a few hours later.

"Anyone could write on this sign. It usually has our specials on it, so no one really pays attention to it. We didn't have any complaints from patrons, so we didn't notice when the manager wrote it," Liu said.


She denied that the sentiments on the sign reflected what the establishment's staff believed, and said it was "just the manager joking around after having a few drinks."

However, a screenshot taken from Lips KTV & Club's Facebook page confirms the statement "Japanese customers are not welcome until we (China) take back the Diaoyu island." The image made the rounds on Reddit.com, shedding doubt on Liu's comment that the discrimination was coming only from the off-duty manager.

A local Japanese student's disgust

Brett Nishikawa, a Japanese University of Calgary student who heard ofLIPSsignPatrons and bar staff next to the discriminating sign.

Photo courtesy of Reddit user Lancedragons
the sign, said: "There's a difference between being proud of the country you came from and discriminating against others who have nothing to do with what's happening across the world. I consider myself Canadian and have nothing to do with the dispute over the islands, so why should some first-generation Chinese immigrants feel the need to direct their anger towards people like me?"

Lips KTV & Club released a statement on their Facebook page late on Sunday
 night, stating:

"We apologize for any confusion and misunderstanding regarding not welcoming any Japanese customers. This incident happened between one of our employee[sic] and their Japanese friend (who were both present last night) as a joke. We haven't and will never refuse any Japanese customers... We are deeply sorry for not removing the sign immediately and we promise that this type of careless act will not happen again."

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