Sophia Rd cafe cashes in on island dispute

SINGAPORE - The decor is nostalgically Singaporean while the affordable food served includes casual Chinese-Hong Kong fare like bolo buns.

But this street-facing cafe at Peace Centre in Sophia Road, which opened two weeks ago, bears a moniker which might raise a few eyebrows.

It is called Diao Yu Dao, named after the group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, hotly contested by China and Japan for sovereignty.

The islands are known as Senkaku in Japan.

Inside the 100-seater cafe and bakery, customers will find, splashed on one wall, over 30 photographs, maps and graphics about the islands which have caused bilateral tensions to rise.

On another wall hangs a lengthy essay in Chinese tracing the islands' history and the countries' respective claims to them.

At the shopfront, a banner reads in Chinese: "Protect the Diaoyu islands".

Cafe manager Jeffrey Ng said that his boss, a Chinese Singaporean in his 60s, had no political motivations behind the outlet's concept and theme.

"It's really up to the individual to view. It (the essay) just tells you the history... Our intention is to sell you good food and bring you back to the old days," Mr Ng told My Paper yesterday.

Diao Yu Dao is believed to be owned by the Onion Restaurant & Bar group, which operates three other restaurants here.

Customer Cora Ong, 52, who is from Hong Kong and owns a forwarding firm here, said that the photographs and essay "give the impression the owner is pro-Chinese".

Another customer, Mr Steven Chew, 65, who works as a supervisor, said: "Politics don't concern us, as long as the food is good and not too expensive."

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