United Airlines is facing a public relations disaster of global proportions after a video was posted online yesterday showing a passenger being ruthlessly dragged out of an overbooked United flight.
After watching the shocking video of the dazed and bloodied man being forcibly removed from his seat on a Chicago-Louisville flight by police officers in order to make room for United staff members, many Chinese netizens have voiced their opinion that the man, a doctor who shouted that he desperately needed to see his patients the next morning, was singled out because he was Asian.
Reportedly, the unidentified man believed this as well. “He said, more or less, ‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese,'” a fellow passenger told The Washington Post. United has denied the man’s ethnicity had anything to do with him being randomly selected to get off the plane after no one volunteered to disembark for an $800 voucher.
The incident has become the top trending topic on Weibo today with thousands of Chinese netizens calling for a boycott of United Airlines and taking the opportunity to bash the United States for its problems with racism and discrimination:
“This was not random, but racial discrimination. All Asian brothers should boycott this fucking company.”
“They chose an Asian because they thought he would be meek and not stand up for his rights. We should show United how wrong they are!”
“This is how they treat their Asian passengers! I’m never flying United again!”
“For all you out there who love America’s ‘human rights,’ see for yourselves what that means.”
“This is your ‘perfect America,” in the eyes of Americans, Asians and blacks don’t have human rights and don’t deserve to be treated fairly.”
“I’ll tell you a joke: ‘America is the world’s leader in human rights.'”
Petitions to boycott United Airlines have been circulating on WeChat included links to one White House petition called “#ChineseLivesMatters Calling a federal investigation into the United Airlines incident on 10th April 2017″ which has already received over 24,000 signatures. If the petition receives 100,000 signatures within a month’s time, it will receive a response from the White House.
Chinese-born comedian Joe Wong has also got behind the boycott. “Many Chinese people feel they’ve been subject to discrimination, but (fear of losing) face prevents them from speaking out, which leads to mainstream media in the West and the public not taking discrimination against Asians seriously,” he wrote on Weibo.
China is a key international market for United. The company operates more nonstop US-China flights than any other airline, including flights to five Chinese cities.
So far, the company’s PR response does not seem to be helping to smooth over the incident and quiet critics. After the video went viral, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a public statement apologizing for “having to re-accommodate” the passenger, drawing even more scorn for the unsympathetic euphemism.
Somehow managing to make things even worse, Munoz later doubled down in a letter to employees on Monday, calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent” and claiming that employees had “followed established procedures.”
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