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Versace apologizes for mislabelling Hong Kong, Macau on T-shirts sold in China

Italian fashion house Versace apologized Sunday in China for selling T-shirts that it said attached incorrect country names to the cities of Hong Kong and Macau, after being attacked on social media for challenging China's territorial integrity.

Italian luxury fashion brand referred to the semi-autonomous territories as independent countries

Italian fashion house Versace has apologized in China for selling T-shirts that it said attached incorrect country names to cities, after a Chinese actress said the clothing was suspected of harming the country's territorial integrity and cut her ties with the company. (Eugene Hoshiko/The Associated Press)

Italian fashion house Versace apologized Sunday in China for selling T-shirts that it said attached incorrect country names to the cities of Hong Kong and Macau, after being attacked on social media for challenging China's territorial integrity.

Versace did not identify the T-shirt in its own post on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media site, but the Global Times newspaper said the item mislabelled the city of Hong Kong with the country name Hong Kong and Macau as part of Macao. The T-shirt has both spellings — Macau for the city and Macao for the special administrative region.

Both Hong Kong and Macao are former European colonies that were returned to China in the late 1990s. 

Photos of the T-shirt were also circulating on social media.

The apology came after a Chinese actress cut her ties with the company, saying the clothing was suspected of harming China's sovereignty.

The studio for Yang Mi, who had been a brand ambassador for Versace, said in a Weibo post that it had sent notice to Versace to terminate their contract.

"The motherland's sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable," the studio's statement read in part.

Versace said the shirts had been removed from all sales channels on July 24 and destroyed.

"Never have I wanted to disrespect China's national sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy," chief creative officer Donatella Versace said in a statement.

Versace is not the first foreign company to face flak over how it describes Hong Kong. China has pressured international airlines and other companies to describe the city as "Hong Kong, China" on their websites, rather than just as "Hong Kong." Both Hong Kong and Macao are semi-autonomous territories which have separate identities from China in many peoples' minds.

The latest flap comes at a sensitive time for China, as protesters in Hong Kong demanding democracy have taken to the streets all summer, motivated in large part by a desire to protect their way of life from interference by the central government in Beijing.

With files from CBC News

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