John Cena has issued an apology on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo after backlash ignited in the nation over him referring to Taiwan as “a country” during a publicity interview for his upcoming “Fast & Furious” tentpole “F9” (via CNN). Cena found himself at the center of controversy because of an interview he gave to Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS. Cena told the network that “Taiwan is the first country that can watch ‘F9,'” upsetting many in China who consider Taiwan merely a breakaway territory.
In his apology video posted to Weibo, Cena spoke in Mandarin and said, “I’m sorry for my mistake. I must say now, [it’s] very, very, very, very important [that] I love, and respect even more, China and the Chinese people.” Cena did not refer to Taiwan by name in the video or discuss the TBVS interview in detail. The actor noted that he “did a lot of interviews” and “made a mistake.”
As CNN notes: “Taiwan is a self-governed democratic island, but China claims it as its sovereign territory despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war over 70 years ago. Beijing considers any suggestion of Taiwan’s independence crossing its ‘red line,’ and has been increasingly trying to use its economic power to police speech on the topic around the world.”
That Cena had to issue an apology is yet another reminder of how much Hollywood relies on China for its box office. The backlash didn’t do much to affect the opening of “F9” on the mainland, however, as the film launched in China over the weekend to a blockbuster $135 million.
According to CNN, Cena’s apology video “has amassed some 7,000 responses on Weibo so far. Some critics are still angry about his remarks, and accused him of not going far enough. ‘Please say “Taiwan is part of China” in Chinese, otherwise we will not accept,’ one person wrote. ‘I don’t understand why the Chinese people should be so tolerant to him, who has a vague political stance while profiting from Chinese people,’ another wrote.”
“F9” is being released globally by Universal Pictures. The film launches in the U.S. on June 25.