A subsidiary of Wanda Group apologized on Saturday and fired three managers who printed an advertisement for a new shopping mall on China's iconic "red scarf" worn by generations of primary school students known as the Chinese Young Pioneers (CYP).
The headmaster at Danyanglu primary school in Heze, in East China's Shandong Province also received a Party warning on Saturday for allowing the advertisement to be printed on the red scarf.
Grade-three students were given the commercialized red scarves, that advertized the opening of Heze Wanda Plaza, during an activity on traffic security on Tuesday afternoon, Legal Daily reported. More than 100 red scarves were retrieved later on Wednesday by teachers. The school also distributed yellow caps to students with the same advertisement. Yellow caps are part of young students' uniforms in many cities in China to make them more visible to motorists.
"Because we found this out early, not many students were seen on the street" wearing the advertisement, an official from the local education bureau in Heze, surnamed Gao, told the Legal Daily.
Lü Yongmei, the headmaster of the primary school, was held directly responsible and was punished in accordance with the Party discipline, according to a statement on the Economic Development Zone of Heze.
Dalian Wanda Commercial Management Group, the subsidiary of Wanda, apologized and said in a statement it fired three managers, including the general manager of the Heze Wanda Plaza, and punished eight other staff members.
Chinese netizens blamed Wanda staff for making a silly decision to misuse one of the country's iconic symbols, with many questioning the company's bottom line.
The advertising agency was also investigated by local authorities.
The red scarf worn by the CYP, represents a corner of the red flag, a symbol that is forbidden to be used in any trademark, commercial advertisement or events.
In August, a company in Shanghai was also condemned by the CYP national working committee for letting Japanese porn star Sora Aoi wear the red scarf at a charity event.
Activities that defame heroes and martyrs, or distort and diminish their deeds are illegal, according to the law on the protection of heroes and martyrs which was adopted in May.
First founded in 1949 and led by the CPC, the CYP is a national organization for Chinese children aged 6 to 14 years, most of whom are primary or secondary school students.