The studio of Chinese actor and singer, Lu Han, issued a statement on social media platform Weibo on Sunday, announcing he would be terminating his relationship with Swiss watch brand, Audemars Piguet.
Lu Han is one of China’s most in-demand celebrity ambassadors, working with brands including Cartier, Gucci and (as of last month) Boucheron. He has been an ambassador for Audemars Piguet since 2018, but said in yesterday’s statement he had decided to end the relationship because “improper comments made by the Audemars Piguet brand seriously violate the one-China principle.”
Chinese netizens had been calling on Lu Han to cut ties with Audemars Piguet following the resurfacing of an interview in which the company’s chief executive, François-Henry Bennahmias, refers to Taiwan as “an ultra-modern, high-tech country.”
Though the original source was not widely shared on Weibo along with the complaints about its content, it likely comes from an article published in Watchonista in May 2020, which features this exact line from Bennahmias as he recounts a speech he had given to students in Taiwan.
China has long maintained its stance that the self-ruled island is part of its territory and references to Taiwan as a country are seen by many within China as an attack on its sovereignty.
Once news of the comment began to be shared on Weibo, Audemars Piguet was quick to issue a written apology on the platform, posting a statement on Saturday that read: “We deeply apologise for the recent wrong statement. Audemars Piguet always adheres to the one-China position and firmly safeguards China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Part of the statement issued by Lu Han’s studio announcing the split said that his team had urged Audemars Piguet to apologise on its global platforms in both Chinese an English and they were unsatisfied with the local apology, issued only in Chinese.
BoF reached out to Audemars Piguet for comment, but did not receive a reply prior to publication.
Navigating China’s celebrity ecosystem has always been a high-risk, high-reward gamble for global luxury brands, but the stakes are even higher in this volatile, politically charged year.