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Versace apologizes to outraged China after T-shirt labels Hong Kong and Macau as countries


People walk past a billboard outside a Versace outlet in Beijing. (Greg Baker/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Fashion house Versace has apologized to China after markings on some of its T-shirts identified Hong Kong and Macau as countries.

Versace recalled and destroyed the offending items, Reuters reported.

The two cities are special administrative regions of China with semi-autonomous governments. But the gaffe was offensive enough to cause China’s most famous actress to sever her contract with Versace after a social media outcry.

Yang Mi, who became Versace’s Chinese brand ambassador in June, severed her relationship with the company, her studio said in a statement on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

“We as a company of the People’s Republic of China, and Yang being a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, we are deeply offended,” said the studio’s statement, according to the English-language China Daily.

“The national sovereignty and territorial integrity is sacred and cannot be violated under any circumstances. It is the duty of all Chinese citizens to uphold the One-China principle and adamantly safeguard national unification,” the studio’s statement said.

The shirts were removed from all sales channels and destroyed, Versace told the Associated Press.

“It’s our company’s negligence, and we express deep apology for the impact it caused,” Versace said in a statement on Weibo, according to AP. “Versace reiterates that we love China and resolutely respect China’s territory and sovereignty.”

China Daily noted that Versace had only apologized in China and not to its millions of international social media followers. It also said that Versace’s website lists Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau “as separate entities of China under the same Asian Pacific tag.”

Donatella Versace did apologize separately, on Instagram.

“I am deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our Company and that is being currently discussed on various social media channels,” she wrote. “Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused.”

The apology comes amid massive, sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong pushing back against what residents see as erosion of the civil liberties they were guaranteed when Britain turned over its former colony to China in 1997.

Other companies have apologized for similar gaffes, according to The Marriott hotel chain listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a recent customer survey, Quartz said. Delta Air Lines, clothing stores Zara and Gap, and McDonald’s have run into similar controversies.