The breakout star of Word of Honor <山河令>, actor Zhang Zhehan (張哲瀚) now faces an epic career backlash and pro-Japanese accusations, after photos showing him posing at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine and Nogi Shrine taken in 2018 were dug up on social media. Despite his prompt apology, 27 brands which had the 30-year-old as their spokesperson quickly ended their partnerships with him.
Zhang Zhehan Claims His “Ignorance”
Drawing national ire are photos of Zhang Zhehan, which started circulating on social media on August 13. The controversial photos show Zhang Zhehan posing in front of Yasukuni shrine, another show him at Tokyo’s Nogi Shrine which he visited to attend a friend’s wedding, yet another in which he posed with former Indonesian first lady Dewi Sukarno.
Seen as a site of Japanese militarism, Yasukuni Shrine commemorates Japan’s soldiers and notoriously enshrines war criminals from World War II, while Nogi Shrine is dedicated to a general who committed suicide after the death of Japanese emperor Meiji in 1912.
With millions of Chinese people dying in WWII under Japan’s military, Zhang Zhehan’s photos touched a raw nerve. Accused of being “pro-Japanese,” there are calls for Zhang Zhehan to apologize and even exit the entertainment industry.
In his apology post published on August 13, Zhang Zhehan said that is “ashamed for his once-ignorance,” and clarified “I am not pro-Japanese. I am a Chinese! I love my motherland.”
State Media Criticizes Zhang Zhehan for Hurting National Dignity
Zhang Zhehan’s comment was met with a harsh reply from People’s Daily, the country’s official newspaper. “This apology is taking responsibility for [his own] ignorance, and also asking forgiveness for offending his fellow citizens’ sentiments. As a public figure, it is utterly unreasonable [for him] to be so lacking in historical knowledge and unaware of the suffering of the nation.” It added that if Zhang Zhehan “knowingly [hurt national dignity], then a heavy price must be paid.”
Another authority, China Central Television reacted in the same tone, expressing that Zhang Zhehan had “touched a historical nerve and hurt national dignity,” emphasizing that the matter “cannot simply be attributed to ignorance.”
Coca-Cola and Other Brands Quick Cut Ties
In response to People’s Daily, Zhang Zhehan said he sincerely accepts the criticism given, and will reflect deeply on the issue and learn his lesson. He added that he would show his love for the country through “practical actions in future,” and pledged to exercise “strict self-discipline.”
However, brands including Wahaha, JBL and Coca-Cola quickly deleted online marketing content related to Zhang Zhehan. Less than 10 hours after his apology, all 27 brands linked to the actor have terminated their partnership with him, putting out official notices on Friday evening.
While most netizens remain skeptical of Zhang Zhehan’s claim that he had been unaware of the associations of Yasukuni Shrine, and called on him to quit the industry, some fans were more forgiving, leaving comments for him to acknowledge his wrongdoing and learn from it, calling on their idol to “be more careful in future.”
Source: World Journal
This article is written by JoyceK for JayneStars.com.