Italian luxury label Versace and its artistic director, Donatella Versace, apologised yesterday after one of its T-shirts, depicting the territories of Hong Kong and Macau as countries, was criticised on Chinese social media.
"Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China's territory and national sovereignty", the brand said in a statement. Both designs neglected to identify Hong Kong as part of China, while appearing to imply that Taiwan - considered a renegade province by Beijing - is an independent country. But it also described Hong Kong and Macau as "Hong Kong-Hong Kong and Macau-Macau".
The company's representative in China, actress Yang Mi, announced she would stop collaborating with Versace over the T-shirt incident, saying the brand was "suspected of damaging our country's national sovereignty".
Separately, popular Chinese boy band idol Jackson Yee said on Weibo he had severed ties with LVMH's Givenchy after pictures of one of the brand's T-shirts, which also listed Hong Kong and Taiwan in a similar way, received criticism.
"China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times", the statement said, according to The China Daily. We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it.
China has pressured worldwide airlines and other companies to describe the city as "Hong Kong, China" on their websites, rather than just as "Hong Kong".
The ending of Yang's relationship with Versace was one of the most viewed topics on Weibo on Sunday, attracting over 640 million views.
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On the evening of August 11, the company's artistic director Donatella Versace released an official apology on several social media platforms.
On Sunday, Versace apologised in an official Weibo post for a "wrong design". She explained the decision with a declaration of nationalist belief stating that "safeguarding the unity of the motherland is the unwavering responsibility of every citizen".
Versace is the latest foreign company to have drawn ire from consumers in mainland China over sovereignty sensitivities.
This is the 10th week in a row of sometimes-violent protests in the territory over fears of growing political influence of Chinese authorities in Hong Kong.
Italy's Dolce & Gabbana also apologised in November after its products were pulled from lucrative Chinese e-commerce platforms over an Instagram post seen in China as culturally offensive.
Last year, United States retailer Gap apologised for selling T-shirts which it said showed an "incorrect map" of China.
Beijing also ordered dozens of global air carriers to change their websites to ensure Taiwan was listed as part of China - a decision that the White House described as "Orwellian nonsense".