China Demands Canada Punish Diplomat for Wu-Tang Clan T-Shirt

The diplomatic crisis between China, Canada, and the Wu-Tang Clan escalated on Thursday with China’s demand for disciplinary action against Canadian diplomat Chad Hensler, identified as the alleged architect of a modified Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt that ostensibly outraged China by mocking the city of Wuhan. 

China is an authoritarian Communist nation in Asia. Canada is a liberal democracy in North America. The Wu-Tang Clan is a hip-hop group of uncertain administrative structure. Wuhan is the city in China where the global coronavirus pandemic originated, although the Chinese Communist Party wants the rest of the world to stop talking about that. 

Canada’s foreign service scrambled to evacuate as many of its citizens as possible from Wuhan after the coronavirus outbreak. Chad Hensler turns out to be the employee of the Canadian embassy in Beijing who decided to order novelty commemorative T-shirts in the summer of 2020 for the staffers who coordinated the evacuation. Attentive Chinese sleuths identified Hensler by noticing his name on the shipping label for the T-shirts, which became a sensation on Chinese social media last week.

As Canada’s Globe and Mail explained, the team that worked on evacuating Canadians from Wuhan took to calling itself the “Wu-Han Clan” in a riff on the hip-hop group’s name. Hensler evidently decided it would be amusing to order novelty T-shirts that combined the famous Wu-Tang Clan logo with Wuhan’s name. According to Canadian Foreign Affairs officials, the shirts were purchased with private funds.

The Chinese government has been working with comical intensity to prove the innocent T-shirts were in fact a coded smear against Wuhan and the Chinese state. Each polite explanation of the “misunderstanding” from the Canadians has been met with shrill accusations of elaborate cover-ups and fervent insistences from Chinese officials that the Wu-Tang Clan logo looks like a bat, the creature often blamed for spreading the Chinese coronavirus. (For the record, the Wu-Tang Clan thinks their logo looks like a flying guillotine).

The latest in a string of sputtering broadsides from China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday made WuTangGate sound like the most elaborate conspiracy since the assassination of JFK:

Sources close to the matter revealed more details about how Hensler deliberately planned to imply a bat-like symbol with the words of “Wuhan” around it in order to imply the coronavirus originated from a bat in Wuhan as part of a Western-led smear campaign against China on the question of the virus origins.

He had sought companies that produce T-shirts with culture symbols as early as in May 2020, and after he contacted one Chinese e-commerce firm, he had been hesitating to provide the image to be printed on the T-shirts until July after he spent over two months to understand the urgent orders this firm needed and its turnover situation, the source said. Meanwhile, the Chinese firm noticed that something went wrong with the image, so it refused the orders Hensler made several times, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

“But he was in a rush. Facing questions from the Chinese firm, he lied that the word ‘WU-HAN’ was just ‘a line of Canadian words,’ representing it’s cool,” the source said, noting that such a plan showed that this Canadian diplomat understands the sensitivity of the image.

The Global Times paused its tirade to note that Hensler was “fully satisfied with the product quality,” because it is very important to stress that Chinese merchants sell good products, even when they are helping rogue Canadian hip-hop fans provoke an international incident.

The Wu-Tang Clan’s first single, “Protect Ya Neck,” was about literal decapitation, but the Global Times said China would graciously settle for his metaphorical scalp:

When the Canadian government has been trying to find an excuse for this ill-intentioned mistake made by the high-level diplomat, the Global Times learned that Hensler has been working at the Canadian Embassy to China for many years and now takes the position as a high-level diplomat. Some Chinese analysts said “it’s hard to believe that a diplomat living in China for many years would not realize the implication of the image amid a smear campaign launched by certain Western politicians on COVID-19. Some considered it a “stupid mistake” made by the Canadian diplomat who may have been echoing the smear campaign, which could not be just a coincidence.

It is beyond our belief that senior diplomats who have been working and living in China for years could make such a stupid mistake inadvertently, [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin] said on Wednesday.

“Serious damages have been done by such wrong actions. The Chinese people also find this very repulsive and difficult to accept. The Canadian side should take this case seriously and give us a serious and unequivocal explanation,” Wang said.

Besides making it clear that China intends to bully the entire world out of remembering where the coronavirus came from, the real issue underlying this absurd controversy is Canada’s detention of Communist Party royalty Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Huawei telecom corporation, wanted by the United States on charges of fraud and violating sanctions against Iran. Meng has been under house arrest in Canada since December 2018.

The T-shirt images began spreading across China’s tightly controlled Internet right after a Canadian judge denied Meng’s request for more lenient bail terms. The judge insisted “current bail conditions are the minimum required to mitigate Ms. Meng’s risk of flight to an acceptable level,” a statement that likely outraged the Communist officials who tell Chinese “netizens” what they should be outraged about.

“Relations between China and Canada have experienced huge challenges over various issues such as the arrest of Huawei’s senior executive Meng Wanzhou and hyping on conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus origins,” the Global Times asserted, neatly summarizing the relevant issues, none of which have anything to do with bat-shaped music logos.


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