Twitter users have been having fun at the expense of Jeremy Hunt, joking the U.K.’s new foreign secretary might be “sleeping on the sofa” when he returns home from an official visit to Beijing, after an odd gaffe in which he told an official meeting his Chinese-born wife Lucia Guo was Japanese — before quickly correcting the error.
Jeremy Hunt accidentally describes his wife as Japanese, not Chinese. In a meeting with Wang Yi, Chinese State Counsellor. pic.twitter.com/YaKrSzr2jA
— Kathy Long (@ProducerKathy) July 30, 2018
“My wife is Japanese — my wife is Chinese,” he said. “That’s a terrible mistake to make.”
Aside from any offense caused to his spouse, the comment falls short of diplomacy, given China and Japan have been traditional rivals for centuries. It also tweaks reasonable sensitivities about conflations that Asians of diverse backgrounds “look alike”. The visit is Hunt’s first to Asia as foreign secretary, after taking office just three weeks ago following Boris Johnson’s resignation from the post.
“My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese, and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xi’an and strong family connections in China,” he added.
Hunt said the confusion arose because he had earlier been speaking Japanese with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.
Jeremy Hunt is:
1) In a competition with Boris Johnson to see who can commit the most knuckle chewing gaffe on an overseas visit
2) Sleeping on the sofa when he gets back https://t.co/iWlxQ2rbaA
— Mikey Smith (@mikeysmith) July 30, 2018
The thought of forgetting my wife's birthday brings me out in a cold sweat. This is a whole other level.https://t.co/joHgUsoNSH
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) July 30, 2018
Jeremy Hunt in Greece: "My wife is Greek, no she is Japanese…well she's Chinese, but she has visited Athens once."
— James Moran (@jamesalexmoran) July 30, 2018
Even famous British wit John Cleese weighed in.
I see Jeremy Hunt, a star in May's cabinet, referred to his wife as "Japanese ", while speaking in Beijing
She is, in fact, Chinese
I sympathise. I often refer to my wife as " Japanese ", when she was, in fact, born on the Isle of Sheppey. It's a mistake that's easily made…
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) July 30, 2018