China Actor Boycotted for War Shrine Photos Amid Japan Tensions

The photo of a Chinese actor posing at the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo went viral just days before the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, drawing public ire and prompting companies to end partnerships with the actor.

China’s Association of Performing Arts, an organization under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, called for a boycott of Zhang Zhehan in a Sunday statement, saying actors should strengthen their study of history. Dozens of brands including Coca-Cola, Maybelline, Clinique, and Nivea said they will stop working with Zhang.

Separately, the Chinese government expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over Japan officials’ visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Sunday, the day marking the 76th anniversary of Japan’s Aug. 15, 1945 surrender. The shrine honors 14 wartime leaders convicted as Class A war criminals alongside other war dead.

“China has made serious representations to the Japanese side through diplomatic channels”, Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman for Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a statement, urging Japan to be careful in its words and actions on the Yasukuni Shrine and other historical issues and make a clean break with militarism.

In Tokyo, at least three members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s cabinet -- Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda and Shinji Inoue, the world expo minister -- visited Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary.

Personal account of the actor Zhang, who has apologized for the “improper” pictures, was closed by Chinese social media platform Weibo, according to a statement from Weibo on Sunday.

“As a public figure, it is too inappropriate that he has so little knowledge of history and is oblivious to the suffering of the nation”, said People’s Daily, the Chinese ruling Communist Party’s newspaper in a commentary on Friday, adding that one will have to pay a heavy price for challenging national interest.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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