John Cena’s apology after Taiwan comment feels like a ‘forced confession’, says advocate of freedom of speech

Freedom of expression lawyer Suzanne Nossel said on Thursday that she found John Cena’s apology to China “worrying” after calling Taiwan a country during a promotional interview for her upcoming film “Fast and Furious 9”.

“It felt like a forced confession,” Nossel, CEO of nonprofit Pen America, told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.” “This clear sense that he’s under enormous pressure, that what may have been only a narrow view, leads to potentially draconian consequences for the film, for his own career, it is illustrative of this very hard hand and pressure that the Chinese use “when someone crosses them.”

Pen America aims to defend human rights and freedom of expression around the world.

Cena posted his apology on Tuesday on Chinese social media. “I have to say right now, it’s very, very, very, very, very, very important,” the movie star said in his video message. “I love and respect China and the Chinese. I am very, very sorry for my mistake.”

China claims Taiwan as its own territory. Although the United States does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country, it does support the Taiwanese government in various informal ways.

The autonomous island is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a major source of conflict with Washington, which is required by US law to help the island defend itself.

Nossel added that she believes Hollywood studios should be more transparent when it comes to who funds them and what part of the profits are made in China.

“I think when something like this incident happens that John Cena should have the backing of the studio and the filmmakers for not just having to effectively apologize and come up with such a frivolous apology for seemingly saving himself,” Nossel said .

Universal’s latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise started with a whopping $ 162 million in eight markets, including China, Korea and Hong Kong.

Neither NBCUniversal nor the Chinese Embassy could be reached for comment. A spokesman for Cena did not respond to a request for comment.

Publication: Universal is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and CNBC.

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