Versace apologies in flap over T-shirts sold in China

BEIJING (AP) — 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.

The apology came after a Chinese actress cut her ties with the company, saying the clothing was suspected of harming China's sovereignty.

The studio for Yang Mi, who had been a brand ambassador for Versace, said in a Weibo post that it had sent notice to Versace to terminate their contract. "The motherland's sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable," the studio's statement read in part.

Versace said the shirts had been removed from all sales channels on July 24 and destroyed.

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Versace Pre-Fall 2019: Stars in attendance
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Versace Pre-Fall 2019: Stars in attendance
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Kim Kardashian West attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Blake Lively attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Blake Lively attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Ciara attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Mary J. Blige attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Lupita Nyong'o attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Norman Reedus and Diane Kruger attend the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Uma Thurman attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Uma Thurman attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Paris Jackson attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West attend the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: La La Anthony attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Tracee Ellis Ross attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Winnie Harlow attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Young Thug and 2 Chainz attend the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Model Gigi Hadid walks the runway at the Versace Pre-Fall 2019 Runway Show on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
US model Hailey Baldwin walks the runway at the Versace Pre-Fall 2019 Runway Show on December 2, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Teyana Taylor attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: (L-R) Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, Young Thug, 2 Chainz and Kesha Ward attend the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Sara Sampaio attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Alexander Wang attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Blake Lively (L) and Gigi Hadid attend a Versace Pre-Fall 2019 Runway Show at the American Stock Exchange in the Financial District on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gotham/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: 21 Savage attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Olivia Palermo attends the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Kesha Ward and 2 Chainz attend the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl attend the the Versace fall 2019 fashion show at the American Stock Exchange Building in lower Manhattan on December 02, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
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"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."

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.

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