Air China mag’s ‘Indians, Pakistanis and black people’ warning sparks racism row
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Air China mag’s ‘Indians, Pakistanis and black people’ warning sparks racism row

CHINA is in the headlines again for yet another marketing blunder, this time over an article by Air China’s in-flight magazine warning travelers to avoid certain ethnic minorities in London.

Haze Fan, a producer at CNBC, was the first to notice the precautionary note, tucked within the pages of the Wings of China magazine.

The warning that was part of a bilingual Mandarin-English article says, “London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people.”

It goes on to say, “We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person while traveling.”

Fan, in her article for CNBC, explained that this was listed under the “Tips from Air China” section, after a long feature about London.

She noted that almost a third of the magazine was dedicated to tourist attractions in Britain’s capital and other famous towns like Oxford.

“The advice is at odds with the London promoted by its Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Brit with Pakistani parents, who in July launched a #LondonisOpen campaign and frequently blogs about his favorite place to eat and drink in his South London Indian-Pakistani neighborhood of Tooting,” Fan wrote.

The gaffe by China’s flag carrier has irked netizens and naturally, Londoners themselves.

On Twitter, angry users are raining criticism on the airline, some even calling for a boycott.

“I guess I will not be flying #AirChina. London is multicultural and we are not all dangerous just like anywhere else in the world,” user Benny Bongsu wrote.

Labour Party lawmaker Vivendra Sharma, who represents a diverse London district, said Wednesday that he had written to China’s ambassador to Britain, demanding an apology for the “blatantly untrue and racist statements.”

Air China, which flies twice daily between Beijing and London, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time a Chinese company is being accused of using racism in a marketing campaign.

In May, a detergent maker had to apologize for an advertisement that showed an Asian woman using the product to wash a dirt-smeared black man who later appeared as a clean Asian.

The advertisement was even dubbed “the most racist ever” by some media outlets.


Additional reporting from Associated Press