Human Rights Watch (HRW) called upon the Chinese government on Wednesday to address the widespread phenomenon of racist content on the Chinese internet. HRW also suggested that Chinese social media platforms should implement its mechanism of removing critical content against the Chinese government to combat racism.
HRW found that racist content against Black people has surged in recent years because it attracts traffic and generating profits. There are a few kinds of typical content perpetuating racial discrimination that are popular on the Chinese internet. These include denigrating interracial relationships, impersonating Black people, death threats and reinforcing stereotypes of Africans by portraying them as impoverished and presenting Chinese as wealthy saviors.
The widespread racist content produced by influencers has also triggered vigorous online and offline reactions. For instance, a Black influencer from the US told HRW that he has ceased posting his life in China due to the huge amount of hate speech in his comment sections from Chinese internet users. In 2019, Chinese internet users also falsely accused a “study buddy” program at Shandong University of assigning “beautiful” Chinese female students to foreign male students.
Chinese social media platforms have not acted to remove as much racist content as they previously committed themselves to remove. Although China is a party of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and major Chinese social platforms have published robust guidelines on combatting racism, actions taken by these platforms have been very limited. HRW reported that these platforms did not respond to their letter from June regarding their policies and response to racism on their platforms. Among the five major platforms in China, only Douyin removed one video among all of the content HRW flagged.
In recent years, there has been increased cooperation between China and African countries. Since China announced its Belt and Road Initiatives nearly a decade ago, 53 African countries have joined and both countries founded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Over the years, there have been controversies regarding racial discrimination against Black people in China. For instance, the Spring Festive Gala on the state broadcaster in 2018 was criticized for a racially discriminatory performance featuring a Chinese actress in blackface performing as an African farmer. In response to racial discrimination allegations, the then spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs countered that these allegations were a ploy for Western media to ruin Chinese-African relationships.