March 24 (UPI) -- A restaurant in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang is under fire for what appears to have been a celebration of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
The restaurant, located on Taiyuan Shopping Street in the heart of Shenyang, had raised an anti-U.S. banner on Sunday evening, local news service Pengpai and other Chinese news sources reported.
The restaurant's manager with the surname Hui had raised an arched red banner; China has slowly begun to lift restrictions that were put in place following the outbreak of COVID-19, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
According to Chinese news services, the banner read, "Congratulations to the United States for the outbreak of COVID-19."
The banner also included an anti-Japanese message.
"We hope the infections moves smoothly into little Japan and continues forever after that."
The images went viral on Chinese social media, reports say.
Local Shenyang police arrived on the scene the same evening. Hui is under investigation by China's public security.
Chinese paper Beijing News said the restaurant made a mistake.
"COVID-19 is a disaster, and the common enemy of mankind regardless of race, geography or nation," the paper said. "We must act in unison with hostility against a common enemy and must not be happy to witness the disaster of others."
The paper also criticized the anti-Japanese remarks on the banner.
"When COVID-19 first appeared in China, Japanese private donors sent supplies, including masks," Beijing News said. "This is an act of ingratitude that does not know how to repay foreign assistance."
The parent company said the restaurant manager had placed the banner out front without notifying the head office, reports say.
The mood may be slowly shifting in China, where officials claim the pandemic is on the decline. The country could also be turning its attention to the issue of the virus being imported back into the country. Travelers to Beijing, the capital, are required to self-quarantine at their own expense for 14 days if traveling to the city, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.