HONG KONG/GUANGZHOU -- The maker of a major Japanese sports drink, Pocari Sweat, has decided to stop airing television commercials for the beverage on a local broadcaster accused of pro-Beijing bias in its coverage of recent protests in the territory.
"This matter was a business decision, and there was no political intent," Otsuka Holdings, the parent of the Hong Kong unit that pulled the ads, told Nikkei. The media company, Television Broadcasts, is a major broadcaster in Hong Kong.
Pocari Sweat's popularity surged in Hong Kong after reports of Otsuka's action. Many residents posted on social media that they bought the drink, and some supermarkets and convenience stores were sold out Wednesday.
Hong Kong residents were highly critical of TVB's coverage of the massive protests against an extradition bill that would allow people in the territory to be handed over to mainland China.
Other companies have pulled their ads from TVB, Hong Kong media report. The broadcaster said its reporting is objective and is not biased.
Meanwhile, Otsuka's decision was blasted by internet users on the mainland, with some urging others on the Weibo social media platform to boycott Pocari Sweat.
Otsuka sells Pocari Sweat across China, and Tianjin serves as one production site.
The entertainment company behind the Guangzhou-based female idol group GNZ48 said on its official Weibo account that it opposes actions affecting peace and stability in the nation and called Pocari Sweat's decision regrettable. The company said it will end a partnership with Pocari Sweat that includes social media ads.