John Cena, the WWE star and actor, has apologised to China for saying Taiwan is a country; China recognises Taiwan as a Chinese territory
The interview has since prompted a backlash from many in China, which considers the self-ruling land of Taiwan to be a Chinese territory; whereas Taiwan sees itself as an independent country.
John Cena has now posted a video message onto social media platforms in which he speaks in Mandarin and says sorry for his “mistake”.
The controversy began when Mr Cena said that would Taiwan be the first “country” to be able to watch the new film Fast and Furious 9, in an interview with the Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS (in Chinese).
This comes after failures within England’s test-and-trace system are partly responsible for a surge in the Indian variant,a report seen by the BBC has said. For three weeks within both April and May, eight local authorities in England did not have full access to the test-and-trace data on positive COVID tests in their area.
Taiwan is a self-governed island state separated from mainland China by the Taiwan Strait. Beijing opposes the suggestion Taiwan is an independent state.
On Tuesday, Mr Cena posted a video on the Chinese social media site Weibo, apologising for the “mistake”.
“I made one mistake, I must say right now, very important, I love and respect Chinese people,” he says, in Chinese. “I am very sorry for my mistake. I am so sorry, I apologise.”
Some comments in response to the video accused Mr Cena of not going far enough in his apology.
“Please say ‘Taiwan is part of China’ in Chinese, otherwise we will not accept,” one Weibo user wrote.
Others were more forgiving.
One wrote: “I can feel that he really likes China… He said the wrong thing and paid the corresponding price.”
Mr Cena, who stars as Jacob Moretto in the new Fast and Furious film, has a large fanbase in China and over 600,000 followers on Weibo.
This comes after China is set to report first population decline within the country since records began in 1949 despite the relaxation of the nation’s strict family planning policies, that was meant to reverse the falling birth rate of the most populous country in the world.
The 17-time WWE professional wrestling champion is the latest high-profile westerner to became entangled in a dispute over China’s political interests.
Fashion brands including Burberry, H&M and Nike have had their online stores blocked and logos blurred on Chinese state TV in a row over claims of abuse in Xinjiang province.
China has previously pressured the Australian airline Qantas into listing Taiwan as a Chinese territory.