BEIJING - A defiant Beijing restaurant manager refused to apologize Thursday despite removing a "racist" sign barring citizens of states in maritime disputes with China, along with dogs, following an international outcry.
The notice in the window of the Beijing Snacks restaurant read: "This shop does not receive the Japanese, the Philippines, the Vietnamese and dog(s)" in both Chinese and English.
But despite taking down the sign after accusations of racism, the manager said he had no regrets and would not apologise for any offence caused.
Images of the sign went viral in Vietnam and were splashed across newspapers in the Philippines on Wednesday. Both are involved in bitter territorial disputes with China over islands in the South China Sea.
The manager, surnamed Wang, said it was taken down "because it was a lot of bother".
"I don't have any regrets," he told AFP. "I was just getting too many phone calls about it."
He seemed surprised at the attention it had generated but said he would not apologise for any offence caused, suggesting it may have been misinterpreted.
"Maybe people misunderstood our meaning... it only said we would not serve customers from those countries," he said.
The sign's wording was particularly inflammatory as it recalled China's colonial era, when British-owned establishments barred Chinese from entering.
A sign outside a Shanghai park supposedly reading "No Dogs and Chinese allowed" became part of Communist propaganda, and was featured in the 1972 Bruce Lee film "Fists of Fury" -- but many historical experts say no such notice ever existed.
The restaurant sign provoked an outcry in Vietnam and the Philippines, generating thousands of posts on Vietnamese social networking sites and newspaper comment threads.
Filipinos greeted the photo with a mixture of fury and amusement. "Blatant racism at Beijing Restaurant," journalist Veronica Pedrosa wrote in one widely-shared tweet.
China and Japan have a separate acrimonious dispute over islands in the East China Sea, and ongoing disagreements about Japan's colonial past.
The cramped establishment's specialty is soup made with pork offal and gravy-soaked biscuits. "This is what old Beijingers like to eat," a white-hatted chef said.