Actor John Cena has apologised to Chinese fans for calling Taiwan a country during a recent interview to promote the new Fast & Furious movie.
The former US wrestling star posted a video posted to the Chinese social media app Weibo on Tuesday, in which the actor expressed his regret in fluent Mandarin.
“I’m very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologise, I apologise, I’m very sorry,” he said in the bizarre video.
Cena’s apology comes after controversial remarks he made to Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS earlier this month in which he reportedly said “Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9”.
Beijing considers democratic, self-ruled Taiwan a part of its territory.
Cena’s original comments sparked outrage across China’s social media.
“I did many, many interviews for Fast & Furious 9, and I made a mistake during one interview,” he said in the video, without repeating the controversial term.
“I must say, which is very, very important, that I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry for my mistake. I apologise.”
The video has been viewed more than 2.4 million times on the strictly controlled social media site, while Chinese media leapt on the apology.
Fast & Furious 9 smashed through the box office during its May 21 release in China last weekend, raking in $US148 million ($190 million), according to the nationalist Global Times newspaper.
However, the film’s premiere in Taiwan was cancelled due to the growing coronavirus outbreak there.
Many Chinese social media users were not satisfied by Cena’s apology.
“Please say ‘Taiwan is part of China’ in Chinese, or we won’t accept it,” said one Weibo user, while another lamented the American’s apparent lack of knowledge that “Taiwan is an integral part of China”.
Many commentators in the West had a different interpretation of the video, with one likening it to a “hostage video”.
The apology also provoked indignation from US politicians who accused the actor of censoring himself to appease Beijing.
“A world where #China’s Communist Party controls what Americans can say isn’t some nightmarish future threat,” tweeted Republican senator Marco Rubio, linking to the apology.
“It’s already here.”