China and Canada are embroiled in a new diplomatic row, this time over a bunch of customized T-shirts that Beijing claims poke fun at the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. The T-shirts were apparently ordered last summer by a member of the Canadian embassy in Beijing who was working to get the country’s citizens out of Wuhan after the initial Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
The offending design is based on the logo of American hip-hop band the Wu-Tang Clan, but with the word “Wu-Tang” replaced with “Wu-Han”. The stylized W, which looks like a bat in the original design as well as in the customized shirts, is a reference to the stereotype of Chinese people eating exotic meat, according to China. Most of the world’s scientific community believe the Covid-19 outbreak started when the virus was passed from an exotic animal to a human in a Wuhan wet market.
According to a statement by Canada’s Foreign Ministry this week, however, such a reference was not intended and any perceived slight is an unfortunate misunderstanding. Spokeswoman Christelle Chartrand also stressed that the order was a “personal initiative from an employee” that was not endorsed by the embassy or Global Affairs Canada.
In a press conference yesterday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Canada’s explanation was not convincing. “The wrongdoing of the Canadian staff concerned has already caused an egregious impact and triggered strong resentment and discontent among the ordinary Chinese people,” Wang said, according to an article in British newspaper the Guardian. “The Canadian side should take the matter seriously and give a clear explanation to the Chinese side as soon as possible.”
The controversy is the latest to flare up between the two countries, which have seen their diplomatic relationship crumble since the arrest of Huawei heiress Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in 2018. The tech exec is wanted on fraud charges in the United States, but Beijing claims the case is politically motivated and an attempt by the US to stifle China’s global economic ambitions.
In what many have said is tit-for-tat retaliation, China has since detained Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig and sentenced a Canadian drug smuggler to death.
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Keywords: Chinese New Year travel
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