German auto giant Daimler has removed a top executive of its China trucks and buses unit, and has apologized on his behalf, after he made racist comments about Chinese people during a row over a parking space.
Rainer Gärtner, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks & Buses China, reportedly cut into a parking space in a Beijing suburb ahead of a local driver. During the ensuing row, he referred to all Chinese people as "bastards" and used pepper spray on the man, according to Chinese state media reports, citing a social media post.
"I have been in China one year already. The first thing I learned here is: all you Chinese are bastards," Gärtner was quoted as saying in English, according to the website of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece.
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, the German car group said the manager in question had been immediately relieved of his position, without specifically naming Gärtner.
Apologizing over the incident, Daimler Greater China also wrote that his comments and actions were "detrimental to the image of our company and inappropriate for a manager of our brand." The company added that this behavior didn't reflect Daimler's values and was a "purely private matter" that had been resolved amicably.
Chinese police said it had no information of the incident to be shared with the public, but the story was nevertheless reported by major newspapers and television stations across the country.
In an online commentary, the Global Times newspaper called Gärtner's alleged remarks "unjustifiable", stating: "No matter how dirty your words are, your heart should not be dirty." Chinese social media users were also incensed.
According to the news agency AFP, a user of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo messaging service expressed the view that Westerners looked down on Chinese, adding: "[Daimler] immediately dealt with this executive only to protect their Chinese business interests."
Another dubbed Daimler's apology "perfunctory", saying: "What it demonstrates is this company's arrogance. It's earning China's money but at heart it doesn't have an ounce of respect for Chinese consumers."
China is one of Daimler's biggest markets worldwide. The country's growing upper middle class increasingly buys premium Mercedes cars as a symbol of their new wealth.
In fact, most Germans do not look down on Chinese - far from it. Germans are keenly aware that China has a five-thousand-year-old civilisation of enormous sophistication, durability and strength. The reports of the Daimler executive's outrageous remarks have deeply embarrassed many Germans who have heard of them.
uhe/nz (dpa, AFP, Reuters)