Relations between China and Canada took a new hit with a row over a T-shirt bearing an altered logo of the New York hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.
Chad Hensler, a Canadian embassy staff member, was reported by mainland media to have ordered T-shirts emblazoned with a bat-like image around the words “Wu-Han” from Chinese T-shirt makers last summer, triggering criticism on Chinese social media that the T-shirts implied that the coronavirus originated from Wuhan after citizens ate bats.
The origin of the pandemic is a highly sensitive topic in China. China has cast doubt on accusations that Wuhan is the origin of the coronavirus and said investigations into the origins were a serious issue that must be based on science.
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Canada’s foreign ministry said this week that the shirts using the “W” logo of the Wu-Tang Clan but with the group’s name replaced with “Wuhan” was not designed to offend.
“The T-shirt logo designed by a member of the embassy shows a stylised W, and is not intended to represent a bat. It was created for the team of embassy staff working on repatriation of Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020,” Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Christelle Chartrand said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We regret the misunderstanding.”
China was not convinced by the explanation and filed an official complaint on Wednesday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday that the claim of a misunderstanding could not be accepted.
“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.
He said the Canadian side should take the matter seriously and deliver a clear explanation.
Neither the Canadian embassy in Beijing nor Hensler have replied to the South China Morning Post’s request for comment.
Wu Xinbo, director at the Centre for American Studies, Fudan University, said the matter itself was “not a big deal” but “under the background of the current abnormal state of Sino-Canada relations, this incident reflects the strong dissatisfaction of the Chinese public towards Canada”.
Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been strained since late 2018 after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China’s communication giant Huawei Technologies. China later arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor, accusing them of spying.
The release of its two citizens is a top priority for Canada.
“If the problem of Meng Wanzhou could be resolved, then Sino-Canada relations will naturally improve, which is also helpful to the settlement of the two Canadians,” Wu said.
On Monday during a call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US Vice-President Kamala Harris offered assurances that the Biden administration would “do everything it can” to secure the release of Kovrig and Spavor.
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