Chinese critics say the “W” is actually a bat and the shirt is meant to imply a connection between the animals and the virus outbreak in the city of Wuhan, playing on a stereotype about the Chinese taste for eating exotic species. The virus that causes COVID-19 is suspected of originating in bats and its outbreak was first detected in Wuhan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday told reporters that Canada’s explanation thus far was ”not convincing.”
“The wrongdoing of the Canadian staff concerned has already caused an egregious impact and triggered strong resentment and discontent among the ordinary Chinese people,” Wang said. “The Canadian side should take the matter seriously and give a clear explanation to the Chinese side as soon as possible.”
On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said in a statement that “The T-shirt logo designed by a member of the Embassy shows a stylized W, and is not intended to represent a bat. It was created for the team of Embassy staff working on repatriation of Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020.”
“This was a personal initiative from an employee and this was not endorsed by the Embassy nor Global Affairs Canada. We regret the misunderstanding,” Chartrand said in an email.
The controversy is a further irritant to relations between the countries that have nosedived in the past two years over China’s demand that Canada release a top executive of communications giant Huawei who is wanted on fraud charges in the United States.
Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder, denies the charges. China says her case is politically motivated as part of a U.S. effort to stifle the nation’s global economic expansion. Her lawyers argue she has been subjected to abuse of process and should be freed.
Canada arrested Meng at Vancouver’s airport in late 2018. In apparent retaliation, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor, placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, and sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death in a sudden retrial.