On August 13, Zhang Zhehan issued an apology for the recent controversy surrounding his past photos on Weibo where he visited the Nogi Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine in Japan. These controversial wartime shrines have long sparked anger in China and South Korea, as critics believe that the shrines ignores sentiment of people who were victims of Japan’s aggression.
This comes after Zhang Zhehan had been revealed to have taken pictures at the Nogi Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine in Japan.
The actor Zhang Zhehan issued an apology on Weibo on the afternoon of the 13th. State media outlets such as People’s Daily and CCTV subsequently voiced their criticisms and called out Zhang Zhehan directly.
Netizens Accused Zhang Zhehan of “Pro-Japanese” Sentiments
A netizen recently broke the news that the actor Zhang Zhehan, who shot to fame after “Word of Honor”, had taken pictures at the Nogi Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine in Japan. The photos were taken from earlier in 2018.
To the Chinese public, the Nogi Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine are reminiscent of the wartime history, where the Japanese invaded China. Many felt that such photos were insensitive and negligent for a public figure to share.
Zhang Zhehan Issues A Formal Apology
According to Zhang Zhehan, the photos were taken from when he attended the wedding of a friend who was of Chinese and Japanese descent. He also expressed remorse over his ignorance regarding the historical significance of the location where his friend’s wedding was held, which was at the Nogi shrine.
His full statement is as follows:
Today I am ashamed of my ignorant self, and I must apologize deeply for my previous misconduct.
I attended a wedding held by a friend in Japan. It was my fault for not learning more about the historical background of the wedding venue and the political background of other people attending the wedding banquet.
I used to take photos at will when traveling in various places. Due to my lack of knowledge of the local buildings and history, and the carelessness in the content of the pictures while I snapped photos, the photos that I took have seriously injured the feelings of the Chinese people, and I am also sincerely apologetic.
I am not pro-Japanese, I am Chinese! I have never made any remarks harmful to my motherland on any occasion! I deeply love my motherland! Everyone can criticize me for my ignorance. I am especially grateful to everyone for your supervision and criticism. As a public figure, I should always keep in mind the pain of our history. In the future, I will study history and culture more seriously so as to be more professional, rigorous and self-disciplined.Zhang Zhehan’s official apology on Weibo
Once again, I solemnly apologize.
Subsequently, th actor’s studio also forwarded an apology: “As Mr. Zhang Zhehan’s team, we hereby apologize to everyone. In the future, we will work with him to improve our professional knowledge, keep the history in mind, and firmly support the motherland! The motherland’s interests are above all else! Do anything! Things are more rigorous and detailed.”
Chinese State Media Call Out Zhang Zhe Han For His Actions
The Chinese state newspaper, People’s Daily was also vocal about their criticisms of Zhang Zhehan. The state media quoted his apology post and commented: “This apology is to pay for his ignorance and to seek forgiveness for offending the sentiments of the Chinese people. As a public figure, he lacks historical knowledge and is totally unaware of the suffering of the nation. It is a matter of national justice, no temptation, let alone any challenge. If you know it, you will have to pay a heavy price.”
Subsequently, Zhang Zhehan also reposted the comments by People’s Daily on his personal Weibo, and wrote: “I sincerely accept criticisms and corrections. I will reflect deeply, and learn my lessons. In the future, I will hold myself to higher standards. As a Chinese, I will firmly support my motherland. My firm stance of loving the party and the country has never wavered. In the future, I will use more practical actions to show my love for the the motherland, fulfill my responsibilities and obligations, and be stricter with myself! Please also take me as a warning [of what you should not do], pay attention to history, learn history, and remember history !”
State media CCTV also quoted Zhang Zhehan’s apology and wrote, “Whether taking a photo in front of the Yasukuni Shrine or attending a wedding at Nogi Shrine, Zhang Zhehan has [reminded us] of the scars of history and hurt the feelings of the people. It cannot be simply attributed to “being ignorant.” Just now, a Japanese minister went to the Yasukuni Shrine pay their worships and China firmly opposes the wrong approach of Japanese politicians. As a Chinese, you should remember history and move forward; never discriminate between right and wrong, or even mislead young people! Please remember: the Yasukuni Shrine is full of [wartime criminals], don’t forget the history as source for self-improvement!
Major Brands Terminate Their Contracts With Zhang Zhehan
The controversy has also caused the actor to lose many brand partnerships. Major brands, including Wahaha, Pandora, Kimtrue, Anker and many others also issued statements saying that they had terminated their working relationship with Zhang Zhehan.
It is worth mentioning that Zhang Zhehan’s drama with Wang Yibo, Zhong Chuxi and Johnny Huang, “Formed Police Unit” also issued a statement on Weibo this evening, stating that “national interests are above everything, and the nation’s righteousness should not be challenged” and “all cooperation with Zhang Zhehan will be terminated with immediate effect.”
This may mean that the actor will no longer be casted in the drama.
For now, there appears to be significant backlash for his actions and it remains to be seen if there would be more termination of contracts between the actor and his brand sponsors.