'Stay away from Indian, Pakistani, black neighbourhoods': Air China tells London visitors

By Simon Denyer

The House of Lords chamber in Parliament, London, one of the city's landmarks. Photo / AP
The House of Lords chamber in Parliament, London, one of the city's landmarks. Photo / AP

Air China has blunt advice for tourists visiting the British capital.

It is generally a safe city, the Chinese state airline's inflight magazine tells its readers - "but precautions are needed entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people".

The comments have already caused what London's Evening Standard newspaper described as a "racism storm".

They appear to have been spotted by a Chinese journalist, Haze Fan, who tweeted a picture to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, adding that her Londoner fiancée found it "rather insulting".

The Evening Standard reported that some British politicians are already demanding an apology and that the phase be removed from the magazine, where it appears in both English and Mandarin.

Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for the London constituency of Tooting, which has a significant population of ethnic Indians and Pakistanis, called the comments "outrageous" and offensive to all Londoners, not just members of ethnic minorities, the Standard reported.

Indeed, as Allin-Khan noted, many Londoners are proud of the capital city's diversity.

Florence Eshalomi, a local government representative for the London borough of Lambeth and Southwark told the paper: "You couldn't make up these outdated and near-racist views."

"I keep thinking, is this 2016?" she said.

The row follows on the heels of a Chinese detergent ad, which caused a storm of protest online back in May. That video showed a Chinese woman luring a paint-stained African man towards her, only to shove a detergent capsule into his mouth and bundle him into a washing machine. Out of the machine emerged a fresh-faced Chinese man.

Around that time, Simon Shen, an associate professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and former visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, had carried out a study of online comments from Chinese netizens and found that the vast majority were "filled with hostility and contempt for India".

Air China could not be immediately reached for comment.

- Washington Post

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