Zhang Zhehan Accused of Being Pro-Japanese

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.

Related Articles


  1. How can a Chinese not know about the Yasukuni shrine? Every year both the Chinese and South Korean media will blast any Japanese leaders who visit the shrine around this time of the year (end of WW2). What makes matter worse is that this guy had been promoting his ‘love for books’ image, acting as if he loves reading so much and is so knowledgeable etc. Anyway I can only say he is fallen by his own stupidity.

  2. To be perfectly honest, the reason this came about was due to his arrogance… After doing lots of research, all due to the fact, I could not believe this was happening. I found out the main reasons he was caught up in this situation.
    It was his arrogance… he had over the years offended many people in the industry and even his fans for his arrogance… He was warned by his fans previously about the photos he posted years ago…but he just ignored their concerns. And did not remove them…he had visited the location more then once.
    But apart from this incident, the public was already upset over him regarding other issues… which his management company handled very badly.
    It is not easy being a celeb in this era as their actions can be magnified due to social media…but the exposure also help them earn tons of money too…Thus it is a game they need to understand very well before playing it.
    Many may feel Zhang Zhehan’s backlash is unjust…but the industry does not… as his arrogance have already offended many…Thus no one can rescue him. Not even his current mentor Zhao Wei …
    As his arrogance with the shrine visits(more then once) and was repeated advised by his fans to remove the photos went unheard… Foreigners do not understand how the history of WW2 is still raw in many Chinese’s hearts… Just as Holocaust is to the Jews…
    There are boundaries that cannot be crossed…And the Government cannot ignore such actions if the Public have already reacted negatively to his photos and visits.
    I am still in shock by his Backlash because I saw his journey starting with Yu Zheng till Zhao Wei, this guy had tried so hard to climb to his current Position, but his downfall is also caused by his own action. A real Shame..

    1. Good thing I have never like him. I, too, felt it’s a bit harsh on him, and that this is a target attacked, but as you said he had ember warnings, so this is brought by his own doings, good riddance I guess.

      I’m not his fans so not having to see him is ok with me lol

    2. His mentor Zhao Wei was also caught up in a similar japan-related uproar when she dressed in an outfit imprinted with a huge japanese military flag. Surprisingly, she’s still active in c-ent.

      1. @msxie0714 She was but it was also about timing… Currently China is going thru a clean up thus unexpected cases get magnified. And Zhang Zhehan’s case came up during this period…so he is also caught up in this cleaning up..

      2. It is definitely as China is now cracking down on everything, not just the entertainment circle. It feels like they are having a lighter version of the Cultural Revolution and are digressing. I just hope they do not become like North Korea which would be beyond sad.

    3. It is already far fetched for him to say he didn’t know about Yasukuni Shrine but didn’t know his fans actually advised him to remove the photos but he didn’t listen. Then he is in no position to continue to claim his ignorance.
      Based on some YT clips on his downfall, he once posted online on his love for his country on China National Day and claiming this was the day to stay at home while he was suspected to be in Japan. Separately, he once also posted picture of a car with the Japanese military flag painted on it. And there was also photo of him doing the Nazi salute.
      As for the wedding location, it is not something he could control unless it was his wedding. It is however, his choice to (or not to) attend but if the wedding couple is his close friend, it might be hard to turn it down.
      At least he is comfortable financially so even if his career as an actor has brought to an end, he does not need to worry about feeding himself or his family.

      1. @BearBear Unless he get sued by his advertising sponsors…then he may suffer lots of losses… as the contracts were cancelled due to his conduct so they can sue him. Yes, I saw the Nazi salute and the picture of the car…

      2. I thought this backlash sounded harsh, but now with this explanation and hearing about the Nazi salute, he is getting everything he deserves. He should not represent any company like that.

      3. @Hohliu Interesting to note that all the brands acted so swiftly to terminate their collaborations with him as compared to KW.
        We are not even in the final quarter of 2021 and we have already seen the downfall of a few well-known names in the entertainment industry. Wonder who is next (still waiting for see if who else is involved in KW’s).

      4. I think his ties got cut fast because there were abundant evidences, and he is only just rising, so his fandom are not as big as KW, also after KW, the companies need to show they act swiftly rather than hang around and attract angry netizens lol

      5. @BearBear , China Government have stated it is cleaning up this Industry…And when their rapid actions has demonstrated this.. This year, we have a number already…I too wonder who is next. These artiste are earning hard earned money of the citizens…Money can come easily for the popular starts but it can go easily too…

      6. @Hohliu,
        Yes, if he got sued then he will lose a lot of money as many endorsement deals cut ties with him. I heard Kris Wu may be sued for $20 something million as those endorsements lost money after cutting ties with him. The same may happen to Zhang ZheHan too.

  3. This reminds me of Xiao Zhan. Both got hugely popular from a BL adaptation and both fell after only experiencingly the fame for a short while, while his co-star in the drama remain unscatched. Of course, I know the difference is XZ’s fall is not his own fault, while ZZH’s is partly his. But it so similar. I wonder if the pattern will be the same for other breakout BL stars.

    I hope there is no dark history on Gong Jun. So far, except for critisism of his acting, there is nothing negative I have heard or read.

    1. I wonder is it the curse of first lead actors in BL drama? But XZ bounced back quite fast, so I am sure ZZH may be the same too

      1. @Hayden Hard to say if he can bounce back as the Government have made their opinion clear in regards to his case…and his actions shows too much disrespect to the Country. And that is a clear: Stay away from this Actor from now on message.
        Xiao Zhan is different, he is unknowingly dragged into the scandal…and he is innocent. All he needs to do is lay low…
        But who really knows, may be Zhehan can still return …

      2. I doubt he can return, the Chinese govt has already officially condemned his actions, all his and his agency’s social media accounts get shut down. This did not happen to XZ at all.

    2. @prettysup1,
      I think XZ’s case was different, but yes ZZH is now condemned by the government and all his accounts got shut down. Therefore, I think he has to wave the circle and his career good bye. It is sad as you know the saying “the higher you climb, the more of hurts when you fall”.

  4. Wonder who leak the photos since it was taken in 2018?Whoever did this must be very jealous of him or he had offended the person. Although I am not his fan, but it’s such a shame for him to have a downfall when he is in his peak now

      1. @msxie0714 OMG, did he? really? Well, ZZH is known to be a arrogant guy and have offended not a small number of people in the industry, that is just catching up with him.

    1. Some ppl said that they were leaked by his own fans who got angry with him after some previous incidents?

  5. I’ve read a bit of background on this issue and I must say, I think ppl are waaaay too harsh with him. I’m not even a fan, but to cancel someone’s entire career out of ignorance (cuz I know I am guilty of that numerous times) or out of a desire to attend a wedding in an awful location, is really too cruel. He might not be a good teammate at times and he might do some really stupid things (btw the Nazi thing was for a movie. He didn’t do it because he understood the implications), but is that enough to justify killing an entire career? For China’s nationalistic purposes, it is. But personally, I think China is also trying to make an example out of him which is unfair; he deserves some repercussions, but not devastate his future.

    1. I never even like or know this guy or that costar who both gained popularity over their BL drama since after an episode or 2 max episodes of their previous dramas I always gave up. Yes, when I first read the news, I thought it was too harsh of a punishment as well but after some utube videos they have their reasons. One, China they say always have a “glass heart” when it comes to stuff like this so they won’t let him go off easy especially this year and he was a bit too arrogant in not apologizing right after but after endorsements started to drop him then he made a letter of apology and even that letter was insincere or something. Also, c/fans are always very serious about their so called idols and even thou they kinda warned him about his social media pics on the shrine he more or less ignore back then probably no ones cares since he’s never that famous to begin with. Now, not sure how they came up to dig up his past again but somehow they did. But, let’s face it if he is a normal guy who visits these so called shrines that had a significant impact on the people still till this day no one would care but if you are a public and posted these sort of stuff on social media you should be asking for people to react especially now that you are finally became famous so to speak. Lucky he finally is famous but also unlucky that you got famous this year and also keeps on posting on social media on sensitive topics.

      1. True, he could’ve kept more attention to his fans’ opinions about his posts to Japan. But, he’s a busy guy. So many variables could be at play – whether it’s the result of arrogance or neglectful handling of his own account, I can’t say. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Regardless, he made a mistake by not addressing it initially and kept quiet until the issue blew up. It is his own doing, but I can’t help but feel pity for him (again, not a fan, just that the road to stardom is paved with tears, sweat and hardwork…to have it destroyed due to a few photos (for a wedding!) seems harsh. At this rate, what’s next? If you visit Japan, you’re insulting China?

      2. Haha yea, it’s pretty much going to head that way, “if you visit Japan, you’re insulting China”. And I agree it’s a bit harsh, but the dude is so fake, I saw a game reality show of him, and he is just so fake. He’s not even good looking for me. And it’s his life, if he’s so arrogant, stupid to burn all the bridges and just a fake kiss ass type, he can go lol

      3. Actually he did not just ignore his fan’s words, he even blacklisted those fans who tried to advise him. So he definitely saw their posts but chose to think he himself is right, not that he is a busy guy.

        And it is not just those wedding pictures or visiting Japan in general. What he visited were those controversial shrines, and not just once but several times. I can just say he is plain stupid.

      4. I am a fan of his and feel sad that he worked so hard for it all to come to this… Just when he finally got noticed and popular, this happens. Maybe it is just fate. You know the saying “ the higher you climb, the more it hurts when you fall”.

  6. Relations were cordial with Japan when prime minister Murayama (1994-96) publicly apologized for imperial Japanese atrocities. The situation turned for the worst only when succeeding right-wing PMs whitewashed or denied the holocaust they created. Japan’s whitewashing of the comfort women issue has only heated up the animosity with both Koreas.
    Historically, China and Japan enjoyed friendly relations from the Tang Dynasty up until the
    the end of the Ming Dynasty.

  7. I did read more into the and I do think zzh is very stupid and ignorant. I can understand if he didn’t know who the politicians that were attending the wedding or that ex first lady, or that he did not know about the history of the wedding venue. However how can you not know about the military Japanese flag or the Yakisuni Shrine which is in the news every few months? You don’t need to study about it in books, it is everyday knowledge on TV, unless he lives under a rock. It’s like a Jew posting Swatiska pics on their Instagram or the Congolese watching around Belgium hand chocolate. I don’t think that Chinese visiting Japan is a crime but going to the shrine of war criminals is very insensitive and insulting to the people who have lived through the terror of Japanese occupation. And even more hurtful when he was warned about it by fans and decided to ignore it. There is a bottom line for what can be tolerated and I believe Zzh’s repeated acts have just crossed the line. Not unforgivable but he needs a warning.

    He is actually not that nice or bright in reality shows. And I have seen his other photos of groping statues etc. He is not a very respectful to history or art despite the learned image that he is selling. While I do not think he should be banned for life because of ignorance and being rude, I do believe that he should punished. At least he doesn’t need to work for a living, but the ban should knock him back into reality with his arrogance. He has not only offended the Chinese people, but also the Korean and other Asian nation’s that have suffered at the hands of Japanese military occupation. I don’t condone hatred to the current Japanese people but I don’t think we as Chinese should ever forget what was done to us in Ww2. And we need to stand up for the comfort women which the Japanese government has continued to deny ever existed.

    1. I think Chinese still hold a lot of hatred to Japanese for what they did. I still remember talking to a friend from mainland and her family still hates the Japanese to the bone. They hate them so much that they refuse to let her marry a Japanese guy. They are still traumatized to this day for what the Japanese did to them.

      The story of the comfort women made me very sad.. we learned briefly about that in our history classes in the US too. It is such a tragedy that the Japanese still deny to this day.

      I have seen him on shows and all, he does not seem to be too bad. But then again I don’t know him personally so who knows? It is definitely not ignorance but maybe he was careless and did not think it was a big deal. I guess this is a serious issue so he may be banned for good and has to wave his career good bye which is a pity as he worked so hard to finally get noticed. It shows that you can be famous and popular one moment but poor and unknown the next. Fame and fortune are truly like clouds and smoke that can disappear faster than anything… so sad..

  8. I am a fan of his and feel sad over this. But I do admit that it is definitely not out of ignorance. He should know but I think he just did not care or thought it was not a big deal. Sadly it is a lot more serious than he thought and he is paying the price. He may have to wave his career good bye. I hope he can at least keep his earnings and live a more low key life and normal life now. I kind of doubt he can make a comeback in China. His only chance is go to elsewhere but then again, he would get even more backlash so I guess it maybe goodbye forever to the circle.

    1. @HeTieShou To be honest, I did enjoy afew of his dramas.. Thus it does make me sad to know what his character is like. This is really Goodbye to him..

      1. @Hohliu,
        I enjoyed his dramas too and I don’t feel he is a bad person. He is not perfect and has made mistakes but is not an evil person. Sadly, things have to come to this. He has to wave his career in China goodbye and do something else.

  9. When someone, not only murdered your kinsmen but also in a most brutal way…including but not limiting to killing infants with bayonet, brutally massacre a city, make all women a sex slave for their army, kill common folks at their whim…AND then not only denied all the above BUT to make sure it does not appear in any history books….these are good reasons to be angry for a long long time…if they were man enough to admit and apologies, things may or may not be different. If they choose to pretend all these did not happen, they need to pay a price for it.

    1. I know what you mean as I was once talking to a friends from mainland and her family still hates the Japanese. They refuse to let her marry Japanese or have anything to do with Japanese. Some of her family members lived through the horror of Japanese so cannot forget it. It is sad.

Comments are closed.