Donatella Versace Apologizes for Shirt That Sparked Outrage in China After Mislabeling Hong Kong as Its Own Country

Donatella Versace apologized on social media following controversy over a T-shirt that mislabelled two Chinese territories — Hong Kong and Macau — as countries.

Versace’s T-shirt sparked criticism on social media, with netizens saying the T-shirt design conflicted with the “One China” policy. (Both Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions of China.) Hong Kong was under British rule for 156 years before it was returned to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997. Portugal ceded Hong Kong to China two years later.

In a statement posted to her Instagram Sunday, Donatella issued an apology for the T-shirt.

“I am deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our Company and that is being currently discussed on various social media channels,” she wrote. “Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused.”

The T-shirt debacle comes amid a time of heightened sensitivities regarding China’s relationship with Hong Kong. Anti-Beijing protests in H.K. — which have expanded from the streets to include an airport sit-in — are entering their 10th week.

Yang Mi, a Chinese actress and Versace’s first brand ambassador from the country, announced Saturday that she would no longer work with the label in light of the controversy. In a statement posted to Chinese social media platform Weibo, Yang said that Versace’s design was “suspected of damaging China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Versace said it had removed the T-shirts from shelves as of July 24 and had destroyed remaining inventory in a statement posted to several social media platforms.

“The Company apologizes for the design of its product and a recall of the t-shirt has been implemented in July,” Versace wrote on Twitter. “The brand accepts accountability and is exploring actions to improve how we operate day-to-day to become more conscientious and aware.”

Versace is not the first brand to find itself in controversy when it comes to China-Hong Kong relations. Nike pulled its collaboration with Japanese streetwear label Undercover from Chinese shelves in June after Undercover shared a post supporting contentious protests against a proposal to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China.

Dolce & Gabbana canceled a planned Shanghai runway show in November 2018 following alleged racist remarks made by designer Stefano Gabbana and a social media campaign that critics slammed as culturally insensitive. Meanwhile, Gucci has found itself in hot water several times over alleged racist designs — including a baclava sweater that evoked blackface and a turban worn by a white model that resembled religious headwear worn by Sikhs.

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