John Ruwitch, Reuters, February 16, 2018
A skit on China’s widely-watched Lunar New Year gala on state television featuring a Chinese actress made up to appear African has provoked accusations of racism online.
The actress, Lou Naiming, appeared on stage in colourful garb with her face and arms coloured brown, carrying a fruit basket on her head, and accompanied by someone costumed as a monkey.
The internet lit up with criticism after the show aired on Thursday night, the eve of Lunar New Year.
“The racial discrimination was so clear,” wrote one microblogger, who goes by the name Chen Fei Tutu.
“Is this our nation propagating Chinese values? When white people discriminate against us, we are strongly dissatisfied, but now we are discriminating against Africans in such high profile. How shameful.”
Others declared the sketch, aired during the “CCTV Spring Festival Gala” that traditionally draws hundreds of millions of viewers, an embarrassment.
Public discussion of racial discrimination is unusual in China, which is dominated by the ethnic Han majority but is also home to dozens of minority groups as well as a growing influx of foreign residents, including Africans.
In 2016, a laundry detergent company in China apologised after running an advertisement in which a black man was stuffed headfirst into a washing machine only to emerge a moment later as a fair-skinned Asian man.
At the time, the Foreign Ministry called the sequence an isolated commercial that had prompted no diplomatic complaints, but added that China respected all countries, no matter their ethnicity or race, and was “good brothers” with African countries.