Canadian embassy in China apologizes for 'Wuhan' T-shirt worn by staff

The Canadian diplomatic mission to China has issued an apology after using the logo of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan to create a T-shirt for embassy staff working to bring Canadians home from China's Wuhan city in early 2020. 

T-shirt used the Wu-Tang Clan's logo, replacing the words Wu-Tang with 'Wuhan'

Staff at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, above, ordered T-shirts that featured the bat-shaped logo of hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan emblazoned with the words Wuhan, a nod to the Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected. The Canadian diplomatic mission to China has apologized for any offence the shirts caused. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

The Canadian diplomatic mission to China has issued an apology after using the logo of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan to create a T-shirt for embassy staff working to bring Canadians home from China's Wuhan city in early 2020. 

"The Embassy of Canada wishes to convey our sincere regret that the private production of T-shirts for embassy staff featuring Wuhan and the logo of a popular hip-hop group has offended public sentiment in China," a statement from the diplomatic mission said. 

"These T-shirts were not produced to make any statement, political or otherwise, and we regret the offence they may have caused."

The Wu-Tang Clan uses a stylized "W" resembling a bat as its logo, with the words Wu-Tang cutting through the middle of the image. The Canadian T-shirt replaced the band name with the name of the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus behind the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected: Wuhan. 

Reuters also reported that Chinese state media quoted a Chinese vendor who said the order for the T-shirt was placed in July of last year.

Members of Wu-Tang Clan perform in front of a screen with the group's logo at the Coachella Valley Music in Indio, Calif., in 2013. China made a formal complaint to Canada over the T-shirts, which featured an image similar to the group's bat-shaped logo. Some experts have suggested that the novel coronavirus originated in bats. (John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the spokesperson for China's ministry of foreign affairs, Wang Wenbin, expressed outrage over Canadian embassy staff wearing the T-shirt.

"The actions of the relevant person, as a diplomat for the Canadian embassy in China, are gravely out of line for someone in his position and deviates from the consistent stance of top levels of the Canadian government," Wang said. 

"China is shocked by his behaviour, and we have already lodged solemn representations to the Canadian embassy in China. We demand Canada immediately investigates this incident, and provide China with a clear explanation."

Some experts have suggested that the novel coronavirus originated in bats. One theory suggests the outbreak came from meat sold in a market in Wuhan province.

Poor relations

Relations with with China have been strained since Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was detained in December 2018 while she was changing planes in Vancouver.

Meng was arrested on a U.S. extradition request on allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

She has consistently denied the charges against her.

Shortly after Meng's arrest, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were imprisoned in China, where they remain behind bars facing charges of spying for Canada.

Since Meng's arrest, China also has placed a number of trade hurdles in front of Canadian exporters — banning imports from two canola producers, tying up shipments over paperwork and putting unusual obstacles in the way of Canadian soybean and pea exporters.

This T-shirt was sold by a Wu-Tang Clan online store, with profits donated to the Ottawa Food Bank. (36 Chambers)

Last year, the Wu-Tang Clan announced an official partnership with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Ottawa Food Bank and the Ottawa Mission shelter.

The group sold T-shirts, along with hand sanitizer and meals, through their online store 36 Chambers, with proceeds from all three items going to the charities.

All profits from the T-shirt sales went to the Ottawa Food Bank.

The Wu-Tang Clan began supporting the Ottawa Food Bank on April 2 after they were tagged in a tweet by Adam Miron, a local businessman. The group replied to Miron's tweet, saying they had contributed to the Food Bank and encouraging others to join them.


Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.


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