Air China and the publisher of its in-flight magazine have issued apologies in the wake of accusations of racism, after an image of an article from onboard magazine “Wings of China” was posted on Twitter.
The article, which has caused worldwide uproar on social media, said in Chinese and English that “precautions are needed” for visitors going to areas of London “mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people.”
A photo of the magazine article was first posted to Twitter by CNBC reporter Haze Fan where it was quickly shared, with many users expressing outrage and accusing Air China of racism.
— Haze Fan (@journohaze) September 6, 2016
Air China said Thursday it had removed copies of its inflight magazine containing an article. The state-owned airline, China’s flag carrier, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the September issue of “Wings of China” used “inappropriate” language and that the article didn’t represent the airline’s views.
Air China’s North American branch also tweeted and then deleted an apology on Thursday, saying “Air China do not condone discrimination in any shape or form.” The message promised that the magazines with the offending article would be removed from all flights, and that the issue would be raised with the publisher – “a separate entity from Air China.” It remains unclear why the apology was deleted.
A Chinese language statement from the publishers of the magazine also apologized to Air China for “improper expressions” that had hurt its brand. The statement said the article had triggered “misinterpretations among media and readers,” and expressed its “sincere apologies… to all the readers and passengers who felt uncomfortable because of this.”
U.K. Member of Parliament Virendra Sharma, who represents a constituency of London with a large ethnically Asian population, called the advice “blatantly untrue and racist.”
Sharma, along with fellow London MP Rosena Allin-Khan, approached the Chinese ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming for comment.
In addition to the sweeping generalizations in the text — in an ironic twist — the article was also factually incorrect.
According to crime statistics for each of London’s 32 boroughs, as of July 2016 only 3 boroughs had “high” or “above average” rates of crime, and based on the most recent U.K. census, those three boroughs all have majority white populations, with black and Asian populations of between 7-15 percent.
According to its annual 2015 report, Air China is the only Chinese airline with “operations covering all six continents.” It carried 89.816 million passengers in 2015, operating routes to 40 countries and regions.
Story by the People’s Daily with information from the Associated Press.