Virgin Atlantic targeted after racism accusations

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-19 0:03:01

Virgin Atlantic's Facebook page was flooded Friday night with thousands of stickers and comments from Chinese netizens demanding an apology to a Chinese passenger who was allegedly verbally abused by a flight attendant.

Members of Li Yi forum, the biggest forum on search engine giant Baidu's online community Tieba, also known as Di Ba, launched an "sticker war" on the Facebook page of the British airline Friday. "Stickers" is a term used to refer to copied-and-pasted images.

Some Chinese netizens posted pro-China comments and images including the national flag on the comments of Virgin's page, called Virgin "racist," and called on netizens to boycott Virgin airlines.

The hashtag "Di Ba goes to battle, Virgin to apologize" generated 180,000 views on Sina Weibo before it was deleted Friday night. Some Di Ba members claimed that their stickers posted on Virgin's Facebook page were also deleted.

The campaign came after a Chinese passenger who posted on Sina Weibo on March 3 of her upsetting experience on a Virgin flight from London to Shanghai. She wrote that she was called "a Chinese pig" by a British passenger, and when she turned to a flight attendant for help, the attendant scolded her.

Her post has been reposted over 36,000 times, resulting in public anger toward the airline company.

Virgin Atlantic Airways said that the company has a "zero tolerance" policy toward racism and they are looking into the case, according to an e-mail Virgin sent to the Global Times on Friday.

This is not the first time members of Di Ba have been involved in online harassment. In January, its members bombarded the Facebook page of some pro-Taiwan independence media outlets and public figures with pro-Chinese mainland comments and stickers.

Di Ba currently has more than 21 million registered users and over 867 million posts.

Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that from opposing Taiwan independence to demanding apologies from Virgin, Di Ba's campaign, led by a group of young Chinese, showed that online commentary has became a major way for young people to express their views.

However, Yu Guomin, a professor at Renmin University of China, believed that such campaigns should not be encouraged among young people.

"They should resort to a more reasonable way to express their dissatisfaction. And some organizations may also be taking advantage of netizens' enthusiasm to seek profits," Yu told the Global Times.
Newspaper headline: Virgin targeted after racism accusations

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