The popular Chinese singer and actor Zhang Zhehan faces a major boycott in his home country, including being expelled by Danish jewelry maker Pandora from their upcoming projects, after pictures recently surfaced of him posing at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine in connection with a friend’s wedding in 2018.
Despite being taken three years ago, the picture recently appeared on the social media platform Weibo and has already had far-reaching consequences for Zhang Zhehan. The Chinese Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) called for a boycott against the actor due to his posting at the controversial site which honors 14 Japanese Class-A war criminals who died in wars for the Emperor of Japan from 1867-1951. The site has given rise to protests from several neighboring countries, including China, who believe their presence shows that Japan has not acknowledged that war crimes have been committed.
In April this year, Pandora Jewelry officially announced that Zhang Zhehan had become a new brand ambassador for the Danish Jewelry brand in China but the company has since the photos resurfaced expelled him from all their upcoming projects.
Following the outrage, the 30-year-old actor made a public apology in which he said, “I hereby solemnly apologize (for …) the content of my pictures that hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” Zhang Zhehan continued by explaining that he attended his friend’s wedding in Japan, and is ‘ashamed’ of his ‘offense’. “I’m not pro-Japanese, I’m Chinese!” he said, continuing, “‘I have never made any harmful remarks to my homeland on any occasion. I deeply love my homeland.”
Despite publicly pleading guilty to a misdemeanor it seems like the damage has already been done. The Nogi shrine is also dedicated to Nogi Maresuke, who is notorious for the Lushun massacre in Port Arthur during the First Sino-Japanese War and relations between China and Japan remain strained due to Japan’s invasion of China before World War II.
Besides being expelled by Pandora, around another 25 companies have also terminated their contract with the actor while Welbo has deleted his profile. Moreover, music platforms like QQ Music and NetEase Music have responded to the photos by taking all his music down and deleting his personal profile and Zhang Zhehan has also been cut out of scenes in several films he appeared in.