eight times NBA All-Star and former NBA champion Dwight Howard is facing criticism on Chinese social media after he referred to Taiwan as a country in a promotional video posted on Twitter.
Howard, who has been playing in the Taiwan Professional Basketball League since November, he filmed a promotional video for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with Vice President William Lai.
«Hi everyone, I’m Dwight Howard and since coming to Taiwan I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for this country,» said the former NBA star.
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«This place makes me feel so much love and I experience so much hospitality with [a] friendly and great living environment with such a diverse culture.»
Lai also refers to Taiwan as a «free country.»
According to a Reuters report, the hashtag #HowardTaiwanindependence had nearly 400 million views on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on Friday.
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Taiwan first seceded from mainland china in 1949, but China still claims sovereignty over self-rule Taiwan. The State Department describes its relations with Taiwan as an «unofficial relationship.»
Howard apologized for his comments on Friday, adding that he does not want to «get involved in politics.»
“Where I come from, if I say I want to go to the countryside, it doesn’t mean that place is a country. This is how we talk,” he told local reporters, via CNN.
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«If I offended anyone in China, I apologize. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone with what I said in the commercial.»
He continued: «I’m not a politician. I don’t want to get involved in any politics… I have the highest respect for the Chinese and the highest respect for the Taiwanese, so it was never my intention to disrespect anyone.»