BEIJING – Italian fashion house Versace apologized Sunday in China for selling T-shirts that it said attached incorrect country names to cities, 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 mislabeled Hong Kong and Macao as countries. Both are former European colonies that were returned to China in the late 1990s.
Versace said the shirts had been removed from all sales channels on July 24 and destroyed.
"It's our company's negligence and we express deep apology for the impact it caused," it said on Weibo. "Versace reiterates that we love China and resolutely respect China's territory and sovereignty."
Donatella Versace, the brand's chief creative officer, wrote on Instagram Sunday that she was “deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error."
"Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty," she wrote. "I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused.”
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 that 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.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Versace 'deeply sorry,' pulls controversial T-shirts from China