The Canadian embassy has apologised following a “misunderstanding” in which a diplomat created a custom-made T-shirt appearing to make fun of the coronavirus crisis.
The offending shirt contained the word Wuhan, the Chinese province in which the virus originated, as part of the ‘W’ bat-like symbol of Wu-Tang Clan. Scientists have long suspected that the virus may have existed in bats before it transferred to humans.
The existence of the shirt has prompted an official complaint from China, whose foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said yesterday (February 1): “We are very shocked by this and have lodged representations with Canada, asking for a thorough investigation and a clear explanation.”
China's Foreign Ministry says it has lodged a solemn representation with the Canadian Embassy over reports staff ordered t-shirts last year with "Wuhan" and a "bat symbol." Per blogger Zhou Xiaoping, this is the image. Any hip-hop fan can tell you though that's a W for the Wu pic.twitter.com/ooTFzh2oRn
— Austin Ramzy (@austinramzy) February 1, 2021
Canada’s foreign service apologised in turn for the t-shirt, telling Reuters that the logo didn’t deliberately represent a bat, and is instead meant to be the letter W.
“We regret the misunderstanding. The T-shirt logo designed by a member of the embassy shows a stylised W, and is not intended to represent a bat,” the spokesperson said.
“It was created for the team of embassy staff working on repatriation of Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020.”
Relations have been strained between Canada and China over the past few years.
In 2018, the Chinese arrested two Canadian men under suspicion of being spies. It followed Canadian police arresting Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the controversial tech company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, under a warrant from the United States.