US wrestler and actor John Cena has apologised to Chinese netizens for referring to Taiwan as a country during a promotional interview for his film “Fast and Furious 9.”

In a video posted on Chinese social media Weibo on Tuesday, Cena said he had made a “mistake” in one interview.

Photo: Screenshot via Twitter.

In early May, Cena had said in an interview that aired on Taiwanese network TVBS that Taiwan would be the “first country” to watch the film.

“I must say, this is very, very, very, very, very, very important, I love and respect China and Chinese people,” the actor said in Mandarin. “I am very very sorry for my mistake. You must understand, I really love and respect China and Chinese people.”

“I did a lot of interviews. In one interview, I made a mistake. Everyone asked me if I could speak in Chinese,” he said, adding that the film team gave him “lots of information.”

The latest instalment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, directed by Taiwanese-born Justin Lin, was set to be released in Taiwan last Wednesday, but has been delayed following the worst Covid-19 outbreak on the island since the beginning of the pandemic.

The film opened in mainland Chinese cinemas last Friday. Chinese state media Global Times reported the Chinese public was underwhelmed by the film over the weekend.

Photo: Youtube Screenshot.

Taiwan, a democratic, self-governed nation, has not been recognised as a country by most international nations after Taipei lost its China seat in the United Nations to Beijing in 1971.

Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province and sees any diplomatic recognition by foreign powers of the Taiwanese administration as an attack on its sovereignty under its “One China” principle. China’s leader Xi Jinping has vowed to “unify” Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary. Surveys in Taiwan show the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese are against “unification” with China.

Cena’s apology comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and the West over reports of mass human rights abuses against China’s ethnic minorities. Rights groups and think tanks have expressed serious concerns at Beijing’s influence on Hollywood, which often self-censors and bows to pressure from Beijing to enter China’s lucrative market.

Correction 26.05.21: A previous version of this article stated that the film “Fast and Furious 9” was directed by Jeremy Lin. It was directed by Justin Lin.

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Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.