Popular American-Japanese model and actress Kiko Mizuhara has posted an apology video on the Chinese social media platform Weibo after being accused online of stoking anti-Chinese sentiment.
Mizuhara, 25, star of the Chinese romantic comedy “No Other Love,” which was directed by Chinese actress Zhao Wei, issued the apology on Friday in response to an online uproar over two controversial photos.
In one photo, a woman said to be Mizuhara is seen visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted Class-A war criminals. In the other, she is allegedly posing in front of Japan’s Rising Sun flag, a symbol of the country’s militarist past.
Mizuhara has denied being in either photo, but nevertheless issued the apology.
In the video, she said she also wanted to “sincerely apologize” over “liking” a friend’s Instagram post from 2013. The post appeared to be a photograph by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei of someone raising their middle finger at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
In the five-minute video, which received over 90,000 shares and 140,000 comments, a dour and sincere-looking Mizuhara also apologizes in Mandarin, saying that “love and peace will bring us together and make the world a better place.”
On social media, Chinese users who commented on the apology were divided.
The majority of comments from fans showed sympathy and understanding with some saying she was never asked to apologize and that those criticizing her were acting like bullies. Others were unmoved, citing her emotionless demeanor, which they said made her look insincere.
“Judging by her facial expression, she looks like she’s forcing herself to apologize,” wrote one user.
The video even prompted Taiwanese and Hong Kong internet users to launch the “First Annual Apologize to China Contest” Facebook group, where participants can post satirical comments mocking Chinese outrage over the incident.
Mizuhara’s Japanese following, meanwhile, took to Twitter to show their support and insist that her apology was genuine. One user claimed that political controversy surrounding the film “No Other Love” was to blame for her being a target, and that she does not deserve the hate she is receiving. The uproar over the alleged Mizuhara photos follows the recent forced departure of Taiwanese co-star Leon Dai, a lead character in the film, who was dropped following pressure by Chinese authorities for allegedly supporting Taiwanese independence.
Various online campaigns calling for the boycott of the film have been initiated by outraged Chinese netizens.
Taiwan’s Premier, Lin Chuan issued a statement saying artists should be allowed to act in films “without political factors getting in the way.” He added that he hoped cases such as Dai’s, where actors are dropped over their political stances, will not become a common occurrence.
Celebrity apologies to China — one of the world’s biggest film and movie markets — are nothing new.
In January, Chou Tzuyu, a Taiwanese member of the Korean pop group Twice released a video online apologizing for holding a Taiwanese flag during a show. The 16-year-old said she felt ashamed of what she had done and stated that there was only “one China” after facing a barrage of criticism online.
Both actor Brad Pitt and Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjoerk have also faced fierce criticism over their support for Tibetan independence and allegedly showing China’s treatment of the Tibetan people in a negative light.
Canadian pop star Justin Bieber provoked similar outrage from Chinese fans in 2014 when he posted a picture on social media showing him posing in front of Yasukuni Shrine.
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