Zhang Zhehan is in hot water today after Netizens found old photos of him visiting controversial war related shrines in Japan. In a 2018 Instagram post, Zhang Zhehan was spotted in front of what appears to be the Yasukuni Shrine with sakura blooms in the background. Then netizens dug up pictures of him attending a wedding at the Nogi Shrine in 2019 where he also met Dewi Sukarno, the Japanese wife of former Indonesian president Sukarno who is widely known to be anti-China.
Nogi Shrine is dedicated to General Nogi Marusuke, a controversial figure in Chinese history having led the Lushun Massacre and its crimes of aggression against China during the First Sino-Japanese war. Likewise, the infamous Yasukuni Shrine is just as or even more controversial as it honours Japanese war dead including war criminals responsible for committing brutal acts of aggression against its Asian neighbours.
Given the history between the two countries, Zhang Zhehan’s photos drew a lot of the public’s ire and put him squarely in the hot seat …
Zhang Zhehan Apologises
In his apology today, the Word of Honor actor apologised for his ignorance and promised to be more mindful about history and culture. “Today I am ashamed of my ignorant self, and I apologise deeply for my previous misconduct. I attended a friend’s wedding held in Japan. With regards to the oversight of the wedding venue’s historical background and the political affiliations of other guests attending the wedding banquet, it is my fault.
When travelling to various places, I enjoy taking a lot of photos. However, because of my lack of knowledge regarding local sites and history, as well as being careless about the content of the photos I took, I have gravely wronged the feelings of the Chinese people. I solemnly apologise here. I am sorry.
I am not a Japanophile, I am Chinese! I’ve never made any remarks harmful to the motherland on any occasion. I deeply love my motherland. You can criticise me for being ignorant. I especially thank everyone for your supervision and criticism. As a public figure, I should always keep in mind the pain of history. In the future, I will be more earnest in broadening my knowledge about our history and culture, enrich my personal development, be more careful and disciplined. Once again, I solemnly apologise.”
Likewise, Zhang Zhehan’s team also issued their own apology for the oversight and promised to work closely with the actor to improve their knowledge, to never forget history and to firmly support the motherland. On top of that, Zhang Zhehan Studio also pinned a previous post they’ve made requesting their lawyers to pursue legal action and investigate perpetrators of rumours and smear campaigns likely as a warning against people who will be using this incident to spread malicious rumours about him.
His Friend Also Apologises for Venue Choice
Meanwhile, Zhang Zhehan’s friend took to Instagram to apologise for him and to also clarify the situation. “Nogi Shrine is a venue many Japanese couples would normally choose to tie the knot in. We didn’t thoroughly check out the place and didn’t fully understand its background … I’m truly sorry for the trouble this has brought to our esteemed guests, and to our friends who were harmed by our choice of wedding venue, I sincerely apologise.”
Facing the Music
In the wake of the fallout, Zhang Zhehan has lost all of his endorsements within a day as brands have dissociated from the actor with statements about their immediate plans to “terminate cooperation.” The brands range from makeup remover and skin care products, jewellery, e-commerce, electronic brands, mobile games, etc. The incident has also drawn attention from the national government who through its various official and party media channels like People’s Daily and the CCTV network slammed the actor’s actions.