Chinese netizens demand apology from Australian TV broadcaster for airing racist content insulting Chinese eating culture

By Cui Fandi and Chen Qingqing Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/23 0:08:39

Photo: screenshot of Horrible Histories

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has drawn outrage and condemnation from Chinese-Australians and Chinese netizens for broadcasting a children's television series with controversial content suggesting insects, rats and hair are used in normal Chinese recipes, which they believe is racism and demand for an apology.   

In an episode of the series, ancient China Empress Wu Zetian, who is played by a white actress, is eating insects, rats, jellyfish and hair, and invites two modern visitors, the program's hosts, to join the meal. As the visitors act disgusted, "Wu" explained it was "perfectly normal" to eat insects in China in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). 

The episode embroiled in controversy is taken from the sixth season of Horrible Histories, which is a sketch comedy for children released in 2015 by CBBC, a UK children's television brand owned by the BBC. ABC Me, ABC's children's channel, aired it in November.

The airing quickly sparked outrage among local Chinese community. On social media platforms, many Chinese-Australians posted that it was a racist act that seriously stigmatized Chinese people, and demanded ABC remove the program and apologize. 

Some Chinese-Australians have launched an online petition protesting against the ABC's discrimination against Chinese people, and said in a statement on the petition page that the show will "sow the seeds of racial discrimination to Australian children, or cause Chinese children to be ridiculed and bullied at school, which will affect the image of Chinese in the long run and affect the work and life of Chinese in Australia."

As of 10:30 pm Sunday, more than 1,347 people had signed the petition.

In China, the incident also sparked an outcry from netizens. 

"This kind of racist behavior is indeed too narrow-minded for a country," a netizen wrote on China's Twitter-like social networking platform Weibo. 

"It's uncanny how they are always talking about anti-racism and they are actually the meanest racists," another one commented. 

The problem is how an Australian TV channel tolerated shows with an apparent tendency of racism, which has been, however, rejected by the Western society for their political correctness, Chen Hong, professor and director of the Australian Studies Center of East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

"The program was also aired at the moment when some Western politicians constantly attacked China for COVID-19 outbreaks, launching smear campaign against the Chinese culture especially the food culture, which is indeed seen as malicious and offensive," Chen said.

Earlier in 2014, the BBC was criticized for a sketch which depicted Florence Nightingale as racist, which viewers claimed was insulting to nurse's memory. The BBC apologized, admitted that the content was biased and withdrew the episode. 

"We also need an apology," a Chinese student in Australia told the Global Times, "Hopefully ABC and CBBC can prove that they are really against racial discrimination, and not just another biased Westerners playing with double standards."

The ABC and the producer CBBC could not be reached for comment. 

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