Canada says it regrets any “misunderstanding”, after China lodged a formal complaint over a diplomat’s custom Wuhan T-shirt.
The T-shirt featured the name Wuhan emblazoned on the logo of rap-group the Wu-Tang Clan, which some on Chinese social media claimed looked like a bat.
Covid-19 was first detected in humans in Wuhan in late 2019.
Experts suggest the virus may have been carried by bats and passed on to humans via another animal.
On Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China had “lodged representations with Canada” and asked for a thorough investigation into the T-shirt.
The clothing, created last year, has a stylised W. It’s unclear how images of the T-shirt emerged online.
“It was created for the team of embassy staff working on repatriation of Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020,” the Canadian embassy told Reuters news agency. “The T-shirt logo designed by a member of the embassy shows a stylised W, and is not intended to represent a bat.”
Since the outbreak in Wuhan, China has been sensitive towards claims that the virus originated there. State media has been cheerleading the idea that the virus may have arrived in Wuhan on frozen food imports or has claimed that Covid-19 has “multiple origins”.
However experts insist that the earliest detected cases were in Wuhan and early cases outside of China were found to have travelled from the Chinese city.
A World Health Organization team is currently in Wuhan investigating the pandemic’s origin.
China and Canada already have tense relations after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, on a US extraditions request.
Days later two Canadians in China, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were arrested on national security charges. The two have since been charged with spying.
Critics have accused China of treating the two Canadians as political bargaining chips, held as part of what is known as “hostage diplomacy”.