A veteran Hong Kong opera star apologized and declared his patriotism on Thursday after his praise of the late British Queen Elizabeth II sparked a backlash among nationalists in China.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents queued in front of the city’s British consulate this week to sign a book of condolence for the late monarch, who died 70 years on the throne.
Among the mourners was Lu Kar-ying, a heavyweight on the Cantonese opera scene, who posted a selfie on Instagram from the queue and a message: “Hong Kong was a blessed land in its time.”
Instagram is banned in China, but Lu’s post went viral on other social media sites, sparking outrage and criticism among nationalists.
On Thursday, Lu took to China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform to post a video apologizing for “making mourning remarks without thinking about them.”
“My original intention was to express my condolences to a belated elderly woman, and I would appeal to everyone not to over-interpret what I said,” the 75-year-old said in Mandarin Chinese.
“I can’t forget my ancestry and my ancestors. I’ve been holding a Chinese passport that says it all, I’m Chinese and I love my motherland forever. I’m sorry.”
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His original Instagram post has been deleted.
Hong Kong has been a British colony for more than 150 years, and while the financial center was returned to China in 1997, the past is engraved in its landscape, from street names and the ubiquitous English language to the common law legal system.
While other former colonies have seen more muted reactions to Elizabeth II’s death, some 6,700 Hong Kong residents, including some government officials, have signed the consulate’s condolence book so far.
Queues crept through the business district and took up to four hours.
Many mourners have expressed nostalgia for the city’s colonial past at a time when China seeks to purge dissent following massive democratic protests three years ago.
Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper that responds to Beijing’s local liaison office, published a commentary on Tuesday accusing “anti-Chinese elements and anti-China media” of “whitewashing colonial rule” by encouraging mourning for Elizabeth II.
Nationalism rose under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive and authoritarian leader in a generation.
Celebrities and companies can find themselves facing a backlash from consumers for any insult to China or a hint of disloyalty.
Several commenters below Law’s Weibo video were not convinced by his apology.
Some told him to “learn from his wife” Lisa Wang, the veteran actress who was Hong Kong’s delegate to China’s highest political advisory body for two decades.