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Image caption The two young men were walking past a restaurant on the south side

Boris Johnson is facing calls to apologise for his reference on the BBC show Question Time to a “stereotypical” Chinese shop owner.

Mr Johnson’s comment caused a backlash on social media who criticised the government’s efforts to attract overseas investment.

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Some also branded for the prime minister to apologise – a request which the prime minister’s spokeswoman confirmed had been made.

Mr Johnson has not responded to requests for a comment.

“I would encourage people on the home front to try this, it’s worth a try. And if you like it, you can buy it,” he said on a BBC show broadcast on Monday.

At the time of writing, the BBC had not received requests for clarification from the government on the subject or Mr Johnson’s use of the word “trendsetter”.

There has also been a backlash on Facebook and Twitter with users claiming the phrase was “racist” and “applies to anyone from the majority race.”

But others pointed out that the prime minister himself was of Indian descent, and also that Mr Johnson’s comments were aimed at the minority ethnic populations who are often disadvantaged by discrimination.

In a response on Facebook, the prime minister’s office said “the comments were an old joke and were made before he became PM, so the government does not take the issue of the word ‘trendsetter’ personally.”

A spokesman for the China Development Promotion Agency stressed that the UK was a “world leader in attracting foreign direct investment”.

‘Difficult to understand’

There have also been complaints that some businesses do not want to be associated with the term or, according to some commentators, that the prime minister’s comments are “offensive”.

But the government said it does not comment on individual businesses or individuals.

Some critics have suggested the prime minister’s comments and the media storm that followed were down to a lack of understanding about Chinese people.

But Mr Johnson has always courted attention off the field by making provocative remarks off it.

After winning an election for Mayor of London in 2012, he said that “the problem with London is that it’s too big”.

“It’s just not good enough for any single borough to stand up against London. And then I’m faced with the problem for the whole of the country: it’s bigger than us, it’s just bigger,” he said.

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