Canada has apologized for a “misunderstanding” after a diplomat ordered a custom T-shirt that displayed the word “Wuhan” over the Wu-Tang Clan's iconic logo. The shirt prompted China to issue a formal complaint over the diplomat's purchase.
The American hip-hop group's logo is a stylized “W.” Reports of the custom order circulating on China’s Twitter-like Weibo app described the shirt's image depicting a bat, without mentioning Wu-Tang Clan’s association. Experts have suggested COVID-19 may have been carried by bats before being transmitted to humans.
It's unclear how images of the T-shirt, which the Canadian embassy said was created early last year, have circulated online.
“We are very shocked by this and have lodged representations with Canada, asking for a thorough investigation and a clear explanation,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin to the Associated Press on Monday at a daily briefing.
Beijing has been sensitive about about claims that the virus originated in China. State media has been proposing the idea that the virus may have initially originated elsewhere and was only first detected in Wuhan when transmitted through frozen food imports.
A spokesperson for Canada’s foreign service told Reuters that Canadian officials “regret the misunderstanding” and that the T-shirt did not intend to mock China’s response to COVID-19.
“The T-shirt logo designed by a member of the Embassy shows a stylized W, and is not intended to represent a bat. It was created for the team of Embassy staff working on repatriation of Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020,” the spokesperson said.
China and Canada have already had a tense relationship as of late—in 2018, Canada detained Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on a U.S. warrant. Just days later, China arrested two Canadian men, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, and accused them of spying.