China urges Canada to punish diplomat for ill intentions behind insulting 'Wuhan-bat' T-shirts
Published: Feb 04, 2021 01:16 AM

Photo: VCG

A Canadian diplomat involved in the latest diplomatic spat over tailor-made T-shirts featuring a bat image and the "Wuhan" word had deceived the Chinese T-shirt maker and deliberately planned to conceal his ill-intentioned motive since May when he placed the order, sources close to the matter told the Global Times on Wednesday, rejecting Canada's side of the story that China has mixed up between the city of Wuhan and the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.

Chad Hensler, who ordered T-shirts emblazoned with a bat-like image around the words "Wu-Han," has sparked outrage among Chinese netizens and officials, who urged the Canadian government to punish the diplomat as soon as possible. 

Canada said it regrets the "misunderstanding" over the issue, saying the T-shirt logo is an emblem of American hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and "is not intended to represent a bat" and"they were personal gifts for a team of diplomats who had traveled to Wuhan in the early days of the pandemic to help with the evacuation of Canadian citizens," according to the local news outlet the Globe and Mail. And in North America, multiple T-shirt vendors sell "Wu-Tang Clan" logos modified with bat ears and "Wuhan" text, according to media reports. 

China did not buy such explanation. "Misunderstanding is an alibi that we simply cannot accept. Some mainstream media have also acknowledged that the custom T-shirt has bat-like emblem on it," Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a routine conference on Wednesday.

Sources close to the matter revealed more details about how Hensler deliberately planned to imply a bat-like symbol with the words of "Wuhan" around it in order to imply the coronavirus originated from a bat in Wuhan as part of a Western-led smear campaign against China on the question of the virus origins. 

He had sought companies that produce T-shirts with culture symbols as early as in May 2020, and after he contacted one Chinese e-commerce firm, he had been hesitating to provide the image to be printed on the T-shirts until July after he spent over two months to understand the urgent orders this firm needed and its turnover situation, the source said. Meanwhile, the Chinese firm noticed that something went wrong with the image, so it refused the orders Hensler made several times, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

"But he was in a rush. Facing questions from the Chinese firm, he lied that the word 'WU-HAN' was just 'a line of Canadian words,' representing it's cool," the source said, noting that such a plan showed that this Canadian diplomat understands the sensitivity of the image. 

After receiving 8 T-shirt samples, Hensler also promised to the Chinese merchant that he was fully satisfied with the product quality, hoping for long-term cooperation with abundant orders. 

When the Canadian government has been trying to find an excuse for this ill-intentioned mistake made by the high-level diplomat, the Global Times learned that Hensler has been working at the Canadian Embassy to China for many years and now takes the position as a high-level diplomat. Some Chinese analysts said "it's hard to believe that a diplomat living in China for many years would not realize the implication of the image amid a smear campaign launched by certain Western politicians on COVID-19. Some considered it a "stupid mistake" made by the Canadian diplomat who may have been echoing the smear campaign, which could not be just a coincidence. 

It is beyond our belief that senior diplomats who have been working and living in China for years could make such a stupid mistake inadvertently, Wang said on Wednesday. 

"Serious damages have been done by such wrong actions. The Chinese people also find this very repulsive and difficult to accept. The Canadian side should take this case seriously and give us a serious and unequivocal explanation," Wang said. 

Analysts also urged the Canadian government to take this incident seriously as soon as possible, which has caused a negative impact, and denounce any misdeeds using the virus-origins issue as a cover to smear other countries. Hensler should apologize openly and make sure such an incident won't happen again, they said. 

Relations between China and Canada have experienced huge challenges over various issues such as the arrest of Huawei's senior executive Meng Wanzhou and hyping on conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus origins. "Such ill-intentioned implication severely damaged the national image of Canada, further jeopardizing China-Canada relationship, which is a very short-sighted action," Li Haidong, professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

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