Chinese firm in racism row apologises, but says media too sensitive

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: May 29, 2016 19:40 IST
Two scenes from a detergent ad by Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Ltd. Co. are shown on computer screens in Beijing on Sunday. (AP)

A Chinese company has issued an apology for releasing a racially charged television commercial but said the media was “too sensitive” to the advertisement, which showed a black man emerging washed white from a washing machine.

The ad for a detergent drop called Qiaobi showed a black man wearing dirty clothes, carrying a tin of paint, entering a room and trying to flirt with an Asian woman. The woman is then showed feeding him the detergent drop and pushing him into the washing machine. Soon, a light-skinned Asian man is shown emerging from the machine much to the delight of the smiling woman.

The ad was being shown in theatres for weeks but attracted a massive torrent of online criticism after it went viral on Chinese social media.

The company in question, Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics, released a statement late on Saturday, saying it was against racism. “We express regret that the ad should have caused a controversy,” the statement read.

“But we will not shun responsibility for controversial content. We express our apology for the harm caused to the African people because of the spread of the ad and the over-amplification by the media,” the company said.

The company’s first statement to media had in fact fueled the controversy.

Speaking to the state-run nationalist tabloid The Global Times, a company representative said the critics were “too sensitive,” and the issue of racial discrimination never came up during the production of the video.

“We meant nothing but to promote the product, and we had never thought about the issue of racism,” the spokesperson, identified with the single name of Wang, told the newspaper.

“The foreign media might be too sensitive about the ad.”

The newspaper reported that advertisement insiders said the ad reflects Chinese people’s insensitivity over race issues. “I think Chinese people will just take the ads as a joke and still buy the products, as most of us don’t have a clear understanding of racism, but the product may be boycotted in Western countries though,” Huang Jing, an advertisement designer from the Beijing-based PandaMobile told the newspaper.

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