Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has joined its U.S. peers by taking down merchandise bearing the controversial Confederate flag from its online platforms. U.S. giants including Amazon, eBay, Wal-Mart, and Sears Holdings have already announced to do the same. The controversial flag has become a hot-button topic in the wake of a racially charged mass shooting at a historic African-American church in South Carolina.
Alibaba prohibits listing of racially offensive materials
Nine men and women were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week. Images of the accused gunman Dylan Roof, a 21-year old white man, holding the Confederate flag and a gun triggered public outrage. Associated with slavery in pre-abolition America, the flag served as the official banner of the Confederate State of America during the American civil war.
Alibaba told the South China Morning Post in an email that the company prohibits listing of materials that are racially or ethnically offensive. The Hangzhou-based company will remove listings of clothing, flags, and other items that display the Confederate flag. U.S. accounts for a small fraction of Alibaba’s total sales. Earlier this week, Alibaba sold its U.S. subsidiary 11 Main to OpenSky in a stock-swap deal. The company is currently more focused on encouraging U.S. small businesses to sell goods to Chinese consumers via Alibaba platforms.
Alibaba yet to inform all merchants about the ban
A quick search for ‘Confederate flag’ on Taobao produced 44 results on Wednesday, all of them bearing the image of the “rebel” flag. Alibaba said not all merchants on its sites had been informed of the ban yet. A Chinese merchant told the South China Morning Post that demand for such products had always been weak in China. But it’s not the case in the United States.
After eBay had banned the sale of Confederate merchandise earlier this week, Amazon witnessed a 352,192% jump in the sale of one version of the Confederate flag within 24 hours. A search for ‘Confederate flag’ on Amazon returned 66 results as of 8:30 AM ET on Wednesday.