DC Comics has pulled an image advertising its new Batman comic on social media following an angry backlash in China, where some believed it implied support of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Source: The Guardian

The since-deleted image showed Batwoman throwing a molotov cocktail against a backdrop of pink lettering reading: “The future is young.” Intended to promote Frank Miller and Rafael Grampá’s forthcoming Batman title Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child, it was shared on DC’s social media earlier this week.

But, according to the Chinese state-run media outlet Global Times, Chinese internet users were quick to take offence, interpreting the image of Batwoman as a gesture of support for the protests in Hong Kong. The autonomous region has faced almost six months of intense political unrest due to the growing influence of China. The former British colony is meant to enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” under the terms of its 1997 handover from the UK, but the Chinese government regards Hong Kong as part of China.

“Is Hong Kong really becoming Gotham City? But Hong Kong rioters are not Batman. Instead, they are the criminals of Gotham City,” wrote one Weibo user, while others on the Chinese social media platform said they would refuse to buy or support anything from the comics giant in future.

Black Bloc rioter throwing Molotov cocktail in Hong Kong

Variety reported that Chinese internet users linked the flaming bottle to the tactics used by the mainly young protesters in Hong Kong, Batman’s black outfit to the black clothes of the demonstrators, and the titular golden child to the colour yellow, which pro-democracy activists adopted for protests held in Hong Kong five years ago.

“The black clothes represent Hong Kong, the mask represents Hong Kong, the Molotov cocktail represents Hong Kong, what else here doesn’t represent Hong Kong???” wrote one reader on Weibo.

The image has since been deleted from DC’s social media, although supporters of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong have continued to complain about the removal on its Twitter and Instagram accounts. Late on Wednesday Grampá, the comic’s illustrator, shared an image of it and described the controversy as surreal.

Out in December, The Golden Child sees Carrie Kelley “growing into her new role as Batwoman”, but “a terrifying evil has returned to Gotham City”. In order to stop it, Batwoman teams up with Lara Kent, the offspring of Superman and Wonder Woman, along with Lara’s younger brother Jonathan, who is known as “the golden child” for his strong superpowers.