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McDonald's apologizes after people said an ad supported Taiwan independence from China

A McDonald's outlet in Taiwan
McDonald's

An ad from McDonald's Taiwan that sparked a row about whether it showed support for the country's independence from China has been withdrawn.

The commercial, broadcast on YouTube, showed a student's exam admission ticket stating her nationality as Taiwanese. She drops the ticket on the street and it's run over by a truck, before being washed clean by a water sprayer. The ad then rewinds and the student is shown eating an Egg McMuffin, known as a Man Fu Bao — which reportedly has a similar pronunciation in Mandarin to "full of good luck."

People in China protested against the ad online, accusing the company of supporting an independent Taiwan, according to a report on the Focus Taiwan website on Saturday.

McDonald's Taiwan said the ad promoted its Egg McMuffin and aimed to boost students' morale, while McDonald's China said it supported the "One China" principle. "We regret about the ad which had stirred up such an unnecessary misunderstanding," McDonald's in China said on its Weibo page, according to Focus Taiwan. "We always hold a solid 'One China' stance and we are determined to continue to support China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

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The ad was posted on YouTube on December 6 and withdrawn on December 18 after the online backlash, but McDonald's Taiwan did not say whether it removed the ad because of the protests.

Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged against "foreign interference" in China's relationship with Taiwan. Beijing views Taiwan as a province that has no right to international recognition as a separate political entity and has increased pressure on multinational companies to refer to Taiwan as part of China.

"Deviating from the 'One China' principle will make the situation of cross (strait) relations tense and chaotic. That's harming the interests of our Taiwan compatriots," Xi said, according to an official English-language translation of a speech broadcast on state media on January 1.

Last week, Alex Huang, the spokesperson for Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, said it would not bow to pressure from China.

McDonald's China and McDonald's Taiwan had not responded to CNBC's requests for comment at the time of publication.

- CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

A McDonald's outlet in Taiwan
McDonald's