Samsung embroiled in ‘One China’ row after K-pop star pulls out
BEIJING – The world’s No. 1 smartphone-maker Samsung Electronics Co. became the latest global brand to face criticism Wednesday for damaging China’s “territorial integrity,” with a Chinese K-pop star ending an endorsement contract.
The row broke out after Chinese viewers noticed that the South Korean tech giant offers different language versions of its website for users in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan — in English, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.
All three appear as choices in a list of ‘countries.’
Beijing is very sensitive about anything it perceives as portraying semiautonomous Hong Kong and Macau or the self-ruled democratic island of Taiwan — which it views as a renegade province awaiting reunification — as separate countries.
Chinese K-pop star Zhang Yixing — popularly known as Lay, from the boyband Exo — Tuesday canceled his agreement with Samsung for it allegedly “hurting the national feelings of Chinese compatriots” by maintaining the separate websites.
“Its act of blurring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country has seriously hurt the national feelings of our compatriots, which we strongly condemn,” Zhang’s Chinese agency said in a statement on its official social media account on Weibo.
Zhang had been a Samsung Electronics brand ambassador in China since December. The firm declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
Luxury brands Versace, Coach, and Givenchy also all apologized this week for making perceived affronts to China’s national sovereignty with T-shirts listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries.
The row also cost them the support of their Chinese brand ambassadors as the companies scrambled to minimize any potential damage in the lucrative mainland market.