A South Korean pop star has become the latest celebrity to spark anger on the Chinese internet after he “liked” a tweet about the divisive issue of pro-democracy unrest in Hong Kong.
Choi Siwon, a member of popular K-pop boy band Super Junior, was forced to apologise twice after liking a post on Twitter by South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo about the Hong Kong protests.
Twitter is blocked in China, but opinions that rile Beijing regularly make their way across the “Great Firewall” of censorship and go viral on Chinese social media.
Choi apologised on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform Sunday night, saying he hoped there would soon be an end to “the violence and chaos” in Hong Kong.
“Since the controversy caused by this behaviour makes you all feel disgusted and disappointed, I express my sincerest apologies to all of you,” he wrote on his Weibo account, where he has 16.5 million followers.
Choi also unliked the Twitter post.
He apologised again on Tuesday, writing on Weibo he felt “really sorry for my wrong behaviour on Twitter recently, which has made everyone feel disappointed and hurt everyone’s feelings.”
“I have never denied…Hong Kong is an integral part of China!” he wrote.
By Tuesday afternoon, the hashtag “Choi Siwon” was the number one topic on Weibo, with 260 million views.
A Choi fan group in China announced on Weibo it was closing as a result of the fracas.
“No one and nothing can shake our own position about patriotism,” the group posted Monday.
The Chinese state-run Global Times said Choi had “liked” a post that “glamorized Hong Kong rioters”.
Other online users also expressed their anger.
“(I) will not forgive you, because my country is more important,” wrote one.
Fans also accused Choi of not being sincere in his apology, and criticised him for posting it only to Weibo and not to other platforms.
Choi had already faced controversy in South Korea when a renowned restaurateur died after being attacked by his family’s pet dog in 2017.
A number of international brands and celebrities have found themselves facing Chinese anger after being perceived to adopt a stance on the pro-democracy protests that have rocked Hong Kong for months.
One of the most high-profile rows saw popular Houston Rockets basketball games pulled from the air by state broadcasters after the Rockets general manager posted a later-deleted tweet supporting the protesters. AFP