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In an audio interview with Chinese filmmaker Li Xuezheng, Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan spoke up about his Yasukuni Shrine scandal for the first time, explaining what has been happening these past few months.
Li posted the 10-minute interview on his Weibo page page on 1 January.
“I am certain that building is not Yasukuni Shrine, as I went to Japan during the cherry blossom season with my friends to see cherry blossoms,” Zhang said, regarding a photo of him with cherry blossom trees and a building at Yasukuni Shrine. “I did not enter the Yasukuni Shrine, nor did I offer my prayers at the shrine.”
Based simply on the pictures that made the rounds on the internet, Zhang was in fact in the well-known sakura tree courtyard inside the sprawling Yasukuni Shrine compound.
However, it would not be wrong to say that the photo circulated does not show Zhang inside the main worship hall of Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine has long been a flashpoint of conflict between people in China and Japan because the shrine commemorates the war dead during World War II, including Japanese war criminals.
The location where Zhang took his photo appears to be outside a management building of the shrine, just outside the Nakamon Torii gate, which is the entrance to the main worship hall of the shrine.
However, the area around Yasukuni Shrine is a tourist hotspot as it features the key cherry blossom tree used by the Tokyo District Meteorological Observatory to determine the cherry blossom flowering period.
Here is the Google Street View of the management building where Zhang took his photo:
Cyber harassment from critics
Zhang also went on to explain the cyber harassment he has been facing, “Both my mother and I fell into a state of panic. I didn’t dare to go out and even started to doubt myself. I’ve been very patriotic but suddenly, after the incident, people are calling me a traitor. They even called my mum the mistress of a Japanese and insulted my dad, who actually passed away in 2016. I’ve been living in fear and don't dare to go out.”
After the controversy broke last year, Zhang had released a statement of apology in August, stressing that he loves his motherland.
Here’s the full audio interview with English subtitles by Zhang’s fan:
Zhang said his mother, on several occasions, even asked him whether she had to jump off a building to prove her innocence. Zhang also wondered if he had to dig out his heart to show his love for his country. To make things worse, haters allegedly sent him funeral wreaths and created his mourning portraits.
At the end of the interview, Zhang said, “I’m willing to be investigated and questioned, and I hope to prove my innocence.”
Zhang became popular last year for his role in the BL drama, Word Of Honor, before his Yasukuni Shrine scandal broke.
The China Association of Performing Arts put him on a blacklist of undesirable celebrities and Zhang was dropped as ambassador for brands like Longines, Pandora and Lanvin.
Filmmaker and producer Li Xuezheng previously criticised the China Association of Performing Arts, questioning whether it had the right to blacklist disgraced celebrities before they go through the legal system.
Li was banned by Weibo from making further posts after he uploaded his interview with Zhang.
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