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Air China withdraws magazine with racist comments against Indians

Air China withdraws magazine with racist comments against Indians
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The airline withdrew the September issue of the ‘Wings of China’ magazine after the government asked it to conduct a probe into the episode. Air China’s ‘Wings of China’ carried a long feature on visiting London. After a section on transport options and lifestyle and cultural activities in London, Wings of China has offered some “Tips from Air China”.

“London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people,” China’s flagship carrier advised in the magazine. As the article created a furore, the state owned airline in an email to news outlets has said that it has removed copies of its in-flight magazine. It said the September issue of Wings of China used “inappropriate” language and that the article did not represent the airline’s views.

“After discovering this problem, Air China immediately removed this magazine from all flights and demanded that the publishers of Wings of China seriously learn from this lesson, strengthen their content review and avoid making similar mistakes,” the airline said. The contents came to light after an Indian-origin MP tweeted the snippet.

The airline also forwarded an email from the magazine’s publisher apologising to Air China and stating that the fault lay with an “editing mistake”.

Indian-origin MP for Ealing Southall Virendra Sharma had tweeted on Wednesday, “This is offensive and I hope AirChina will remove this magazine and apologise immediately.”  Sharma had demanded an apology from Air China for “blatant racism”.

In its apology to Air China, the China Aviation Media Co Ltd, the publisher of the magazine, said the article ran “counter to our original intention to promote the beautiful scenes of London”.

“It has brought about misunderstanding from some media outlets and readers and also a huge negative impact on your company's business operations and image. We deeply apologise for that,” its statement read.

An embarrassed Chinese Foreign Ministry asked Air China to investigate the racial comments while clarifying that Beijing has never issued such an advisory to Chinese visiting London.  “I have seen the report but I have no specific information on that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

She added: “I have noticed that this morning Air China has already given a response to this issue. We hope Air China will properly deal with it.”

Clarifying that it is not the official position, she said, “The position upheld by Chinese government is that all ethnic groups are equal. We are firmly opposed to any form of racial dissemination and this position is clear and consistent.” 

“For tips travelling to London, we will issue some specific travel warnings for people going to very dangerous places but for London I have no specific tips for Chinese people there,” she said.

Asked whether Chinese ambassador will get involved in anyway after Sharma’s representation, she said, “we urge Air China to properly deal with the issue and carry out thorough investigation.” 

Despite being a communist country adhering to the principles of equality and friendliness to foreigners, specially to Indians, the racial attitudes of sections of Chinese keep surfacing in different forms time and again. 

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