Asian actors

China boycotts actor Zhang Zhehan after photos of visit to Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine

China boycotts actor Zhang Zhehan after photos of visit to Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine

Screenshot from Word of Honor trailer

Photos of the Chinese actor posing at Japan's controversial Yasukuni Shrine circulated online, sparking outrage among Chinese netizens and brands

China’s Association of Performing Arts on Sunday, August 15 called for a boycott of a Chinese actor after photos of him at Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine taken in 2018 and 2019 circulated online and sparked outrage among Chinese netizens and media.

The Yasukuni Shrine is seen by Japan’s neighboring countries as a symbol of that country’s past militarism, and remains a flashpoint for tension with China.

The shrine honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 World War Two leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals. China, which was occupied by the Japanese from 1937 to 1945, takes offense at visits to the shrine.

“The misbehavior of actor Zhang Zhehan severely harms national feeling and brings baneful influence to his young age-group audience. Hence, we demand members not to engage him in any employment,” said the association in a statement on Sunday.

Zhang, 30, apologized on Chinese social media on Friday, August 13 saying he is “ashamed of his ignorance.” Still, state-backed People’s Daily commented that Zhang should “pay a heavy price” for the “challenge of national dignity.”

More than 25 companies in China, including US beverage maker Coca-Cola Co and Danish jeweler Pandora A/S , have announced the termination of partnerships with Zhang.

Separately, China protested on Friday a visit to the shrine by Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters China was “greatly dissatisfied and firmly opposed” to the visit.

The visit showed “the wrong attitude with how Japan treated its history of invasion and its malicious intention in challenging the post-war international order,” Wu said.

China has lodged stern representation to Japan on this matter, Wu said. –

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