Versace apologises after T-shirt causes uproar over China's 'sacred' territorial sovereignty

Donatella Versace walks down the catwalk after her Versace presentation in New York

Donatella Versace walks down the catwalk after her Versace presentation in New York

Italian fashion house Versace and its artistic director Donatella Versace apologised on Sunday for trading T-shirts that incorrectly referred to the Chinese-controlled territories, once European colonies, of Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries, following a backlash that a picture of the clothing item provoked on social media.

The T-shirts were taken off its shelves on July 24 and have been "destroyed", it said.

Versace has just lost its brand ambassador in China.

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

After pictures circulated online of a T-shirt allegedly sold by Coach that suggests Hong Kong and Taiwan are countries, rather than cities, calls grew over social media for a boycott of the Tapestry Inc-owned label. It described Hong Kong and Macau as "Hong Kong-Hong Kong and "Macau-Macau".

In May past year the USA retailer Gap apologised for selling T-shirts with an "incorrect map" of China that did not include Taiwan and parts of the South China Sea. "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", Donatella said in a statement.

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However the brand's ambassador in China, the actress Yang Mi, said she would end her association with Versace because "as a citizen of the People's Republic of China" she was "extremely outraged" by the design.

"The motherland's sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable", the studio's statement read in part.

It also described Hong Kong and Macau as "Hong Kong-Hong Kong" and 'Macau-Macau'. This sparked a three-day sit-in protest at Hong Kong's global airport, with protesters chanting pro-democracy slogans and handing out pamphlets to arriving travelers.

In the current context when ... those who support Hong Kong independence are creating trouble wilfully ... a global brand like Versace has made a problematic T-shirt that calls Hong Kong a country.

Versace joins the ranks of other prominent global companies including Zara and Gap, that also issued apologies to China following similar misrepresentation controversies.

Pro-democracy demonstrators there have protested over an extradition bill introduced by the territory's chief executive, Carrie Lam, which critics feared would have allowed authorities to transfer dissidents in Hong Kong for prosecution in mainland China.

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