An article in a Chinese airline's inflight magazine has been condemned as racist for its comments about ethnic minority areas of London. Air China faces backlash for its guide to London, which warns visitors that “precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people”. While it does say "London is generally a safe place to travel", the airline also advises tourists not to go out alone at night and says females should always be "accompanied by another person when travelling". A photo of the article emerged when Haze Fan, a Beijing-based producer for US news channel CNBC, tweeted it.
Many Londoners and others were understandably outraged by the guide, taking to social media to vent their frustration at the offence it has caused.
Some London MPs have also called on Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, to ask for an apology from Air China. Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, called the advice "Disgusting unacceptable racism", adding that the airline must apologise and "maybe actually visit London".
Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall, said he has written to the ambassador to complain about the airline's “blatant racism”. He said: “I am shocked and appalled that even today some people would see it as acceptable to write such blatantly untrue and racist statements," adding that he has asked for the magazine to be withdrawn immediately.
Sharma also said he has invited representatives of Air China to visit his London constituency, "to see that a very multicultural area is safe". Air China operates two flights per day from Beijing to Heathrow. Responding to the criticism, the team behind the magazine, Wings of China, blamed people's outrage on "misinterpretations among media and readers", CNBC reported. In a statement in Chinese, they said: "The inappropriate expressions in the article are merely the mistakes made by the editors, but in no means represent the views of the magazine." They said the magazine will be immediately withdrawn, before apologising, "to all the readers and passengers who felt uncomfortable because of this."