Air China became the target of international outrage yesterday thanks to a shockingly racist article in its inflight magazine. China’s flagship carrier has responded to the controversy by removing all copies of the offensive magazine and claiming that the publication does not reflect its own views in any way.
Yesterday, CNBC published a photo of the offensive paragraph taken from a feature article about visiting London published in Air China’s inflight magazine “Wings of China” this month. While most of the feature was either innocuous or silly, under a section titled “Tips from Air China,” the article gave this helpful advice:
“London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians,Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when traveling.”
That startlingly offensive tip about avoiding London’s ethnic neighborhoods made headlines around the world; particularly in the UK where local politicians called on the airline to apologize and remove the magazine from flights.
In a statement released earlier today, Air China said that it had removed all copies of the magazine, but also proclaimed its own innocence in the incident, claiming that the publications on its flight do not in fact represent the airline’s own views — even when under the heading “Tips from Air China.”
Instead, the airline has pointed the finger at the magazine’s publisher, saying that they hope it has learned its lesson and will avoid similar problems in the future.
“Wings of China” also released a statement, falling on the sword and apologizing to Air China for damaging its reputation and to offended readers. Here’s part of the statement, translated by CNBC:
This is at odds with our original purpose of promoting the beautiful scenery of London, further triggering misinterpretations among media and readers and creating significantly negative impact on your company’s operation and brand image.
The inappropriate expressions in the article are merely the mistakes made by the editors, but in no means represent the views of the magazine.
We will immediately withdraw all the publications, carefully learn this lesson, improve our management to make sure there will be no more similar mistakes. We also would love to send sincere apologies via Air China to all the readers and passengers who felt uncomfortable because of this.”
At a regular daily press conference today, China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that she had read Air China’s statement, but didn’t know much about the situation. However, she does know that China is against racism:
“I want to stress that the Chinese government upholds equality among all ethnic groups and opposes all forms of racial discrimination. This position is consistent and clear,” she said.
When asked if the Foreign Ministry had any tips for Chinese visitors to the UK, Hua talked about encouraging greater cooperation in tourism between the two countries. She declined to say whether the Chinese ambassador to the UK should get involved in the situation, but expressed confidence that Air China will handle all the hubbub.
“Relevant departments will have the necessary talks with Air China, and we believe Air China will investigate about this and properly deal with it,” she concluded.