A leading Chinese brand ambassador has quit Versace, claiming that one of the brand’s T-shirts broke Beijing’s “one China” policy.
Yang Mi, an actress and singer, issued a statement announcing the termination of her contract with the luxury fashion house in response to a design which appeared to list Hong Kong and Macau as countries, rather than cities.
Both are classed as special administrative regions of China, which have semi-autonomous governments from the mainland.
The company, and designer Donatella Versace, have both since apologized for the “unfortunate” error.
Yang’s announcement was posted Sunday on the official account of her studio, Jiaxing Xingguang, on Weibo, China’s largest social media platform.
“China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times,” the statement said. “As a company of the People’s Republic of China and Yang Mi as a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, we are deeply offended.
“It is the duty of all Chinese citizens to uphold the “One China” principle and adamantly safeguard national unification,” said the statement, as translated by Chinese state-run newspaper, the China Daily.
Versace issued an official apology in response to the incident and announced that the shirt is no longer for sale. “The Company apologizes for the design of its product and a recall of the T-shirt has been implemented in July,” the brand wrote on Twitter.
Donatella Versace also apologized. “I am deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our company and that is currently being discussed on various social media channels,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s national sovereignty, and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused.”
Following the outcry surrounding Versace, American brand Coach and French brand Givenchy have also come under fire for similar shirts. Both labels were found to have designed garments that neglected to identify Hong Kong as part of China, while appearing to imply that Taiwan — considered a renegade province by Beijing — is an independent country.
Coach and Givenchy both issued apologies on Monday.
The issue of Chinese sovereignty has reached fever pitch in recent months in the wake of widespread anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy demonstrators there have protested over an extradition bill introduced by the territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, which critics feared would have allowed authorities to transfer dissidents in Hong Kong for prosecution in mainland China.
Following widespread discontent, Lam announced that the bill was “dead,”but protests have continued as citizens fear the growing influence of Chinese authorities in Hong Kong.
Most recently, China clamped down on Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s leading airline, banning staff who have supported or participated in the protests. This sparked a three-day sit-in protest at Hong Kong’s international airport, with protesters chanting pro-democracy slogans and handing out pamphlets to arriving travelers.
This is the 10th straight weekend of sometimes violent protests throughout the financial hub.