Public outrage in China on Friday sparked public outcry in China after pictures of Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan standing at Japan’s infamous Yasukuni Shrine, which honors some of Japan’s worst war criminals, spread on social media.
Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan
There were also photographs of Zhang attending a wedding at Nogi Shrine, another infamous shrine honoring officers of the Imperial Japanese Army that invaded China during World War II. The Chinese media criticized Zhang for his ignorance of history and national suffering. “If someone deliberately disregards national dignity, he will have to pay a heavy price,” read a comment to the People’s Daily published on China’s Weibo website on Friday night.
Viewers found that as of 10 p.m. on Friday, more than 20 companies that have had business relationships with Zhang, including beverage brand Wahaha, have announced that they are ending their partnership with Zhang. “National dignity is something that cannot be compromised,” Waha said in a statement posted on Weibo. The company said its products would immediately end its partnership with Zhang. Zhang has been a brand advocate for Wha’s Vanilla Ice Cream Products. Food company Hsu Fu Chi said on Weibo that it would end cooperation with Zhang, saying his actions hurt the sentiments of the Chinese people, which the company strongly opposes. “National dignity, image and honor cannot be compromised,” the company wrote.
Jewel Pandora and textile brand Shanghai Mercury Home Textile also issued similar statements. The producers of the Police Unit film starring Chang also said he would be left out of production. Zhang apologized via Chinese social media on Friday afternoon. “I am ashamed of my ignorance, and I deeply apologize for my past misconduct,” Zhang said in a post on his Weibo account. “I sincerely apologize for the contents of some of my photographs, which have deeply hurt the sentiments of the Chinese people,” Zhang wrote.
But most Chinese netizens, including many of Zhang’s former fans, did not accept his apology, saying the pictures he took were unforgivable. “I was shocked and angry when I heard the news,” Lan, a Shanghai fan, Zhang’s fan, told the Global Times on Friday. Lan said, “I don’t understand why a Chinese person, especially so popular among the youth, could be so ignorant of such basic historical facts.
I find it hard to forgive his mistakes.” Yasukuni Shrine is infamous around the world because it commemorates about 1,000 war criminals from World War II, including those who served during the Japanese invasion of China (1931–1945). Zhang, 30, became popular with many young Chinese earlier this year when the Wuxia TV drama Word of Honor was broadcast on the Youku streaming platform.