Blackface Skit in China’s State Broadcaster Lunar New Year Gala Sparks Criticism From Chinese Viewers

February 16, 2018 Updated: February 20, 2018

SHANGHAI—A skit on the annual Lunar New Year gala put on by CCTV, China’s state television broadcaster, featured a Chinese actress made up to appear African, provoking accusations of racism by Chinese netizens online.

The actress, Lou Naiming, appeared on stage in colorful garb with her face and arms colored brown, carrying a fruit basket on her head, and accompanied by someone costumed as a monkey.

In the skit, a black woman playing Lou’s daughter declares that she wants to study in China but is worried her mother will not agree.

Lou gives a nationalistic response: “Why wouldn’t I agree? A Chinese volunteer medical team saved my life when I was young. Now Chinese kids are building a railroad for us … I love Chinese people. I love China!”

The internet lit up with criticism after the show aired on the night of  Feb. 15, the eve of Lunar New Year.

“The racial discrimination was so clear,” wrote one microblogger, who goes by the name Chen Fei Tutu.

“Is this our nation propagating Chinese values? When white people discriminate against us, we are strongly dissatisfied, but now we are discriminating against Africans in such high profile. How shameful.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request on Feb. 16 from Reuters seeking comment on the racism allegations.

On its Weibo microblog, the online information platform Tutopia said, “Imagine if it was a white person in blackface saying in an exaggerated accent, ‘I love America,’ and not being blasted by the whole world.”

Others declared the sketch an embarrassment.

The more than four-hour-long program of skits, music, and dance has been a television staple since it was first broadcast in 1983, typically drawing hundreds of millions of viewers. But the program has increasingly been criticized by domestic viewers for blatantly promulgating Communist Party propaganda.

Public discussion of racial discrimination is unusual in China, which is dominated by the ethnic Han majority but is also home to dozens of minority groups as well as a growing influx of foreign residents, including Africans.

In 2016, a laundry detergent company in China apologized after running an advertisement in which a black man was stuffed headfirst into a washing machine only to emerge a moment later as a fair-skinned Asian man.

From Reuters. Epoch Times staff member Annie Wu contributed to this report.