Versace apologises after T-shirt angers China

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Versace T-shirtImage source, Sina Weibo

Luxury brand Versace has apologised after an image on one of its T-shirts appeared to imply Hong Kong and Macau were independent territories.

After fierce criticism on social media in China, Versace said it had made a mistake and had stopped selling the tops.

It said it "respects the sovereignty of China's territorial state".

Fashion brands Givenchy and Coach are also facing a backlash for not adhering to China's territorial claims.

The Versace T-shirts, images of which were shared on social media, featured city-country pairs such as Milan-Italy and London-UK.

These also included Hong Kong-Hong Kong and Macau-Macau.

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China has been increasingly strict in policing how foreign firms describe Hong Kong, which is part of China but has a special status, offering its people more autonomy than those on the mainland.

In a post on Weibo, the Italian fashion label said it had stopped selling and had destroyed the T-shirts as of 24 July.

"We apologise for the dispute. We love China and respect the sovereignty of China's territorial state," a translation of Versace's statement said.

The label's artistic director Donatella Versace issued a similar apology.

"Never have I wanted to disrespect China's National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologise for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused," she said on her Instagram account.

The incident also led to Versace's China brand ambassador Yang Mi, a popular actress in the country, cutting ties with the brand.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Actress Yang Mi cut ties with Versace

"China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times," a statement from her studio, Jiaxing Media, said.

The hashtag #YangMiStopsWorkingWithVersace had 860 million views on Weibo on Monday morning

Versace is the latest foreign company to have drawn ire from consumers in mainland China over sovereignty sensitivities. The issue has gained further prominence in light of months of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

The company also misspelled the Belgian city of Brussels, instead printing 'Brusells' on the t-shirt.

On Monday, fashion brands Coach and Givenchy also faced a backlash over garments they had produced.

Coach's China ambassador Liu Wen, a model, said on China's Weibo social media website that she had ended her contract with the company over a T-shirt which listed Taiwan as a country.

"I apologize to everyone for the damage that I have caused as a result of my less-careful choice of brand!" she said in a Weibo post that was liked hundreds of thousands of times.

Coach said it corrected the error last year and apologised.

Separately, Chinese boy band member Jackson Yee said he had quit as a Givenchy spokesman after pictures emerged of one of its shirts listing Hong Kong and Taiwan in a similar way. Givenchy also apologised.

Last year, US retailer Gap apologised for selling T-shirts which it said showed an "incorrect map" of China.

The design featured just the mainland and not territories that China also claims, such as Taiwan. Beijing considers self-ruling Taiwan to be a breakaway province.

Several other companies including Marriott and Delta Airlines issued similar apologies in 2018 after information on their websites appeared to conflict with China's territorial claims.

Beijing had earlier demanded a group of foreign airlines respect China's sovereignty claims and change the way they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.