Air China is under fire for printing London travel advice in their in-flight magazine that tells tourists to avoid parts of London, saying that “precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people”. Citing that “London is generally a safe place to travel,” the Wings of China piece also added that “We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.”
Haze Fan, a China-based producer for CNBC, put the magazine text out on Twitter and it has, according to the Guardian, caused some tension among MPs, two of whom have urged China’s UK ambassador, Liu Xiaoming to get an apology from the airline.
On Twitter, Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall wrote that, “This is offensive and I hope AirChina will remove this magazine and apologise immediately.” Ealing Southall, according to the Guardian, has a 39 per cent Asian population.
Additionally, Fan included London mayor Sadiq Khan, in the hopes of getting a response. A spokesperson told the Guardian that Khan’s office was drafting a response.
Air China, the flag carrier for the country, has yet to comment on the issue.
This is not the first time a Chinese brand has come under fire for racism. In May, Qiaobi laundry detergent released an ad featuring a black man being “washed” white, yet was defiant in its response saying that the media magnified controversy surrounding the ad.
Additionally, former Chinese ambassador Gary Locke, of Chinese American descent, was called a “rotten banana,” among other offensive slurs by Chinese media, upon his departure in 2014, prompting then US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki to say, ‘‘We are not going to dignify the name-calling in that editorial with a response.’’
Update: According to the BBC, Air China's in-flight magazine publisher has issued an apology, saying that "it wished to apologise to 'readers and passengers who are feeling uncomfortable'. This inappropriate description... was purely a work mistake by the editors and it's not the magazine's views. We will immediately recall this entire issue of magazines and draw lessons from this incident."