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China internet outcry over United passenger fiasco

AFP logoAFP 11/04/2017

China social media users were in an uproar Tuesday over viral footage of a Chinese-American man dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight, decrying perceived racism and calling for a boycott.

The videos taken by fellow passengers and posted to Twitter showed the man being forcibly pulled screaming from his seat by three security personnel.

Twitter -- along with other Western websites such as Facebook and Google -- is blocked on the mainland by the country's ruling Communist Party, which fears the unregulated spread of information it deems politically sensitive.

But footage of the Sunday showdown on the flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky was reposted to China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, where the subject quickly became the top trending topic, garnering over 120 million views and 80,000 comments -- many of them highly nationalistic in tone.

"Shameless! We won't forgive them. Ethnic Chinese around the world please boycott United Airlines!" wrote one commentator.

"There is a long history of discrimination against Asians. I hope Chinese people realize this reality and support domestic products," another user opined. "Don't feed those who look down on us!"

It is a common sentiment among many mainlanders to view ethnic Chinese living abroad -- even those with no ties to China -- as compatriots.

United Airlines is one of the world's biggest airlines with a total fleet of more than 700 planes © Provided by AFP United Airlines is one of the world's biggest airlines with a total fleet of more than 700 planes United Airlines claims itself to be the biggest carrier to China, with more nonstop US-China flights and to more Chinese cities than any other airline, according to their website.

The company did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment, but its CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for "having to re-accomodate" customers such as the Chinese-American man, who was being contacted directly to resolve the situation.

"Asian American or not, as a consumer who paid for his ticket, he was treated like a prisoner," one Weibo commenter said. "Things are better here at home."

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