On Sunday (Aug 15), China’s Association of Performing Arts called for a boycott of Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (Word Of Honor) after photos of him at Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine shot in 2018 and 2019 circulated online and sparked outrage among Chinese netizens and media.

Seen by Japan’s neighbouring countries as a symbol of that country’s past militarism, the Yasukuni Shrine remains a flashpoint for tension with China. It honours Japan’s war dead,  including 14 World War II leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals. The Japanese occupied China from 1937 to 1945 and China takes offence at visits to the shrine, as reported by Reuters via The Star.

“The misbehaviour of actor Zhang Zhehan severely harms national feeling and brings baneful influence to his young age-group audience.

“Hence, we demand members not to engage him in any employment,” said the association in a statement on Sunday.

On Friday, the 30-year-old actor apologised on Chinese social media, saying that he is “ashamed of his ignorance”. Still, state-backed People’s Daily commented that Zhang should “pay a heavy price” for the “challenge of national dignity”.

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Over 25 companies dropped Zhang Zhehan after his photo controversy. Picture: Instagram

More than 25 companies in China, including US beverage maker Coca-Cola Co and Danish jeweller Pandora A/S, have announced the termination of partnerships with Zhang.

Born May 11, 1991, Zhang Zhehan is a Chinese actor and singer. His first major role was Wei Ying in the Chinese historical drama Legend of Ban Shu (2015).

Zhang Zhehan was best known for his role as the cold and aloof prince, Long Feiye in another historical romance drama, Legend of Yunxi (2018).

In 2010, Zhang made his acting debut in the romance drama Why Love You. Thereafter, he signed a contract with Yu Zheng’s studio and played the leading role in the comedy web series Crazy for Palace (2013) and its sequel. The series gained a small following online. /TISG