Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan ‘pays heavy price’ by posing at Japan’s notorious Yasukuni Shrine; ‘all brands end cooperation’
Published: Aug 13, 2021 11:09 PM
Zhang Zhehan Photo:VCG

Zhang Zhehan Photo:VCG

Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan sparked outrage among the Chinese public on Friday, after photos were spread on social media in which he was seen posing at Japan's notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors some of Japan's worst war criminals.

There were also photos of Zhang attending a wedding at Nogi Shrine, another infamous shrine that honors imperial Japanese military officers who invaded China during World War II.

The Chinese media criticized Zhang for being ignorant of history and national suffering. "One shall pay a heavy price for it if he or she knowingly challenges national dignity," read a comment from People's Daily that was posted on China's twitter-like Weibo on Friday evening.

As of 10 pm on Friday, all the more than 20 companies with commercial cooperation with Zhang, including drink brand Wahaha, have announced they would end their partnership with Zhang, the public found.

"National dignity is something that can't be disturbed," Wahaha said in a statement it published on Weibo. The company said that its products will terminate their partnership with Zhang immediately. Zhang was brand advocate for Wahaha's vanilla ice cream products.

Food company Hsu Fu Chi said on Weibo it would terminate cooperation with Zhang, saying that his deeds had hurt Chinese people's feelings, which the company is opposed to firmly. "The national dignity, image and respect can't be encroached upon," the company wrote.

Jewel brand Pandora and fabrics brand Shanghai Mercury Home Textile also made similar statements. 

The producers of Formed Police Unit, a film starring Zhang, also said he would be removed from the production. 

Zhang apologized on Chinese social media on Friday afternoon. "I am ashamed of my ignorance, and deeply apologize for my previous misbehavior," Zhang said in a post on his Weibo account which has 18.8 million followers, saying it was down to his lack of knowledge about history.

"I hereby solemnly apologize [for..] some content in my photos that seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," Zhang wrote.

But most Chinese netizens, including many of Zhang's previous fans, didn't accept his apology, saying the photos he took were unforgivable.

"I was very surprised and angry when I heard the news," one Shanghai resident surnamed Lan, a fan of Zhang, told the Global Times on Friday, saying she won't see him as an idol anymore.

"I don't understand why a Chinese person, especially one who is famous among young people, could be ignorant about such basic historical facts. I find it hard to forgive his mistakes," Lan said. 

The Yasukuni Shrine is globally notorious as it commemorates about 1,000 war criminals from World War II, including those who served during Japan's invasion of China (1931-45).

Zhang, 30, started to become popular among many Chinese youngsters at the beginning of this year, when his wuxia TV drama Word of Honor was broadcast on the streaming platform Youku.