Wrestler and actor John Cena issued an apology to the Chinese people on the social media platform Weibo on Tuesday after referring to Taiwan as a "country" during a recent interview.
Cena, speaking in Mandarin, told his fans that it is "very, very, very, very important I love, and respect even more, China and the Chinese people," adding that he "did a lot of interviews" and "made a mistake" during one of them, while not specifically referencing his remarks or even Taiwan itself by name, according to multiple translations.
"I'm sorry for my mistake," he added.
He was referring to an interview given to the Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS to promote the latest film in the "Fast and the Furious" series, which is highly popular in China, during which he said that Taiwan was "the first country" that would be able to see the ninth installment in the franchise.
Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a claim Taipei rejects, and has warned the U.S. against increased ties with the democratically run island.
Cena's apology, which received mixed reactions on the Weibo platform, according to CNN, was sharply criticized by some U.S. media and political figures including Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonConservatives target Biden pick for New York district court GOP anger with Fauci rises Cotton swipes at Fauci: 'These bureaucrats think that they are the science' MORE (R-Ark.) and Keith Olbermann.
Pathetic. https://t.co/CLxCOatdDE— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) May 25, 2021
How shameful, Cena.— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) May 25, 2021
Taiwan is a country - and a democracy. You just apologized to a dictatorship. https://t.co/rBx50uQgF6
In 2019, the NBA faced a storm of criticism after it apologized to China and its people for remarks made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Morey's now-deleted tweet, which read, "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," resulted in him and the league being forced to apologize while other team figures including James Harden made remarks distancing themselves from his opinions.
Remarks seen as pro-Taiwan have come with political consequences in recent months as Beijing has held increasingly resolute in its assertion that the island is part of its territory.
The Biden administration has come into dispute with China over the issue in recent months, with Chinese military officials condemning freedom of navigation operations carried out by U.S. Navy vessels in the South China Sea.