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Campaigners alarmed by KFC’s decision to open first store in Tibet

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Lhasa is expected to welcome its first KFC restaurant as early as January
Lhasa is expected to welcome its first KFC restaurant as early as January

Related tags Kfc Fast food

A prominent campaign group has expressed concern over an announcement that KFC will open a store in Tibet more than a decade after the chain was forced to abandon entering the country. 

Parent company Yum Brands said a franchisee would open the new restaurant in Lhasa in the first-half of 2016. The two-storey, 540-square-metre restaurant is scheduled to open in a central shopping mall, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

KFC also plans to build a 4.67-hectare frozen storage in the city's suburbs "to prepare for further expansion in the region​", it added.

The move comes as the parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell prepares to diverge its business in China and triple the number of restaurants it operates in the country to 20,000.

Yum told AFP that the store would "serve local consumers and tourists alike​” and “incorporate local design elements, provide employment opportunities and support the development of the regional supply chain​.”

However, London-based group Free Tibet urged Yum to think beyond cosmetics.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, campaigner Alistair Currie said: "There's nothing in principle wrong with a western company setting up shop in Tibet, but it's always a source of concern because so far, very few companies have shown that they have any interest in bringing benefit to Tibet and Tibetans​.

"The onus is on Yum to show that its commitment to the community is not tokenistic and superficial. They haven't done that yet​.”

In 2004, the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the country which China has ruled since the ‘Fifties, penned a letter to Yum to criticise the restaurant chain’s earlier plan to open a store in Lhasa.

He wrote that KFC’s methods of raising and killing chickens "violated Tibetan values​”, adding: "It is quite natural for me to support those who are currently protesting the introduction of industrial food practices into Tibet that will perpetuate the suffering of huge numbers of chickens​.”

Yum later cancelled the move, saying the Tibetan market was not yet “economically feasible​”.

Chen Biao, manager of the Lhasa Shenlishidai mall where the new KFC store will be based, told Xinhua: "The consumers in Tibet accept fried chicken and hamburgers well​.

The mall is already home to some fast food restaurants such as [Chinese fried chicken chain] Dicos​,” Chen added.

More stories from China…

China’s rural children left behind in nutrition as parents seek fortune in cities

Tens of millions of children from China’s rural provinces are at risk from increased fat and reduced protein in their diets as their parents move to the country’s booming cities, research from Manchester has found.


The study, published in Public Health Nutrition​ and covering 140 rural villages in nine provinces, found that some 61m young people faced a dangerous nutritional imbalance.

Led by Nan Zhang, the Manchester University researchers analysed the nutritional intake of 975 children, finding a particular risk to boys who were left behind. Many of them were left in the care of grandparents or a single parent while a mother or father sought work away from home.

Zhang said the greater financial security migrant parents might bring to a family could often be at the expense of child nutrition.

The Chinese government needs to recognise this growing problem among rural communities, and this research provides some evidence to target health policies on encouraging a balanced diet​,” said Zhang.

The study found that “left-behind​” boys in particular consumed more fat and less protein than those from complete families, leaving them at increased risk of obesity and stunted growth. 

This had important policy implications in a country where “son preferences​” were prominent.

Although the findings don’t provide reasons for this change in diet, the researchers speculate that mothers who moved away from home generally earned less. 

These lower earnings would act in combination with grandparents’ poorer dietary knowledge or willingness to spend more on food, said Zhang, who has also released a paper exploring the intergenerational differences in beliefs about healthy eating for left-behind children among grandparents and parents in the journal Appetite​.

The fact that the prices of protein-based foods including eggs and meat have increased faster than many households’ incomes could also have an impact. Nutrition doesn’t necessarily improve even if money is sent home from one or both parents, Zhang said.

The process of parental migration is complex and the reasons for problems in boys’ nutrition are not straightforward. However we can see that both parents and grandparents in rural areas need to be educated about good diet​,” she said. 

Because raising children can fall on all members of the family, good care-giving practices need to become more widespread​.”

HK fast-food chains urged to phase out antibiotics in meat

Hong Kong's consumer watchdog has called on fast-food franchisees to ban antibiotics in their meats in a move that would echo the plans of some chains in North America. 


The Consumer Council has urged restaurants including McDonald’s, Subway and KFC to begin a process to halt the sourcing of meat and poultry from animals that are routinely fattened on the supplements. 

In March, McDonald's USA said it would phase out the use of chicken that were routinely given antibiotics within two years. Subway said it would limit the use of antibiotics in meat.

The Consumer Council chief said the routine overuse of antibiotics in meat production should be avoided to prevent the spread of deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han has written to nine fast food and restaurant chains to urge them to devise a process that would allow them to phase out using such meat across the 841 outlets they control in Hong Kong.

"We are not sure whether these big companies are really unaware of the health risks. We will alert them to the problem if they claim they do not know about it​,” Wong told the Post​, adding that she was seeking to speak to the companies directly to discuss their sourcing policies.

One chain so far, Cafe de Coral, has said it would meet the Consumer Council to discuss the issue.

Amanda Long, director general of the Consumers International, an international federation of consumer organisations, of which Hong Kong’s Consumer Council is a member, said: “If antibiotic resistance continues to grow unchecked the results will be catastrophic​. 

Global restaurant chains are in a position to use their huge buying power to have real impact on the use of antibiotics in food production, to set the agenda for other businesses and to promote public awareness of this looming crisis​.”

Two antibiotics are banned in animals and birds bred for meat in Hong Kong, while legal limits are set for 17 antibiotics.

Consumers International is spearheading international action against the use of antibiotics in meat.

PolyU scientists devise saliva diabetes test

Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed a transistor-based biosensor which they say can take the pain out of diabetics’ regular blood tests by measuring glucose levels in saliva.

A/Prof Yen with his sensor


Whereas the amount of glucose available in saliva has traditionally been too small for detection, the Hong Kong scientists say their technology could detect quantities as small as 5g in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

The new glucose biosensor is fabricated with flexible substrates can perform in a variety of curved and moving surfaces, including human skin, smart textiles and medical bandages.

The researchers have coated polyaniline/nafion-graphene bilayer films between the top enzyme layer and gate electrode in their biosensor. The strong adhesion of this top layer to the glucose oxidase enzyme layer enables it to stabilise and perform well in glucose detection, they say.

Our novel biosensor is selectively sensitive to glucose, accurate, flexible and low in cost​,” said Yen Fang of the university’s department of applied physics. 

It shows a detection lower limit of 10-5 mmol/L, which is nearly 1,000 times more sensitive than the conventional device for measuring blood glucose​. 

This means with this biosensor, as little as 5g of glucose in a standard swimming pool of 50m x 25m x 2 m can be detected​. 

Accuracy of the biosensor has been ascertained through laboratory experiments with repeatable results using glucose solutions of known glucose levels​,” said Associate Professor Yen.

Test chips could be produced at a commercial cost of HK$3-5 (US$0.40-0.65), which is comparable or even cheaper than products currently in use. They could be developed for use in clothing and wearable devices to also analyse glucose levels in sweat during exercise, the researchers said.

1 comment

Tibetan KFC as a start for bigger change?

Posted by Zhenzhong Si,

Thanks for providing this interesting discussion piece about KFC opening in Tibet. I am a researcher about China's food system and ecological agricultural sector. Just want to say that I think the changing dietary patterns in China and the development of tourism in Tibet fosters the move. Although it might be alarmed because of Tibetan's belief, it might be a good reason to stimulate some changes of the treatment of chicken of KFCs in Tibet, which might bring bigger impacts in China. I have been organizing a linkedin discussion group called "China's Changing Food System". Anyone who are interested in China's food issues are welcome to join the discussion. In you are interested in China's food system, please also connect with me on LinkedIn:

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