Sunday 27 May 2018

Air China sparks row with 'racist' travel advice on London

Air China Calling

Air China Airbus A320. Photo: Deposit
Air China Airbus A320. Photo: Deposit

Neil Connor

China’s national carrier is embroiled in a race row after its inflight magazine carried a warning that visitors to London should avoid ethnic minority areas.

Air China’s Wings of China magazine said the British capital was generally safe, but warned “precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people".

It was carried in English and Chinese in an article about London’s attractions under the headline "Tips from Air China”.

The following sentence added: "We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when traveling."

The remarks were spotted by Chinese journalist Haze Fan who tweeted a picture of them to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan asking him for his opinion.

The comments have caused outrage among London MPs, including Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Virendra Sharma, who say they are writing to the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming.

“I am shocked and appalled that even today some people would see it as acceptable to write such blatantly untrue and racist statements,” said Mr Sharma, the Labour MP for Ealing Southall.

“I have invited representatives of Air China to visit my constituency of Ealing Southall to see that a very multicultural area is safe, and would be of great value for those visiting London to see.

“I will await their response, and if an appropriate one is not forthcoming I shall feel forced to question whether Air China is a fit company to operate in the UK.”

Chinese companies have previously been criticised for their depictions of other races.

In May, a Chinese laundry detergent commercial sparked outrage with its depiction of a black man being ‘cleaned’ in a washing machine before he came out as a Han Chinese man.

And over the New Year, Chinese promotional posters for the latest Star Wars film saw black British actor John Boyega being shrunk.

Hu Xingdou, an expert in political science at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said racism is common in China.

“In Western countries, there are clear boundaries when it concerns minorities and religion, but Chinese society doesn’t take ethnic minority issues seriously, which is clearly expressed in this magazine,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Ordinary Chinese people usually have racially discriminatory views,” Prof Hu added.

“Such as Chinese people don't like black people, who are regarded as dirty and dangerous.”

Younger Chinese are generally less likely to have racist views, but many in China see those from the country’s rural areas who have darker skin as inferior. Pure white skin is also highly valued in Chinese society.

Air China did not respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Christine Wei

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