Chinese in Malawi sold videos of black children being tricked into saying “I have low IQ” in Mandarin

The Chinese Communist Party in a statement on Thursday dismissed a bombastic BBC report that revealed a lucrative industry in which Chinese citizens sell degrading videos of African children online, calling the most inflammatory of those videos an “isolated case of a fool”.

In his documentation Racism for saleBBC journalist Runako Celina traced the origins of a viral video on China’s state-controlled social media site Weibo that showed a group of African children shouting in Mandarin, “I’m a black monster and I have a low IQ.” The kids obviously don’t seem to know what they’re saying.

In another BBC video, African children sing a song with the lyrics “Yellow skin and dark eyes are the prettiest colour”.

The video went viral in 2020 on a Weibo page called Jokes About Black People Club. Although the video itself is two years old, the BBC report this week revealed the first documented evidence, including interviews with the exploited children, of where and when the video was filmed: this year on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Celina found a man named Lu Ke, who got the kids to call him “Susu” or “Uncle,” who appeared to be responsible for the video, though he denied it.

Personalized videos of African children sending happy birthday greetings, congratulating newlyweds or engaging in sexualised dances have become a profitable industry for Chinese in poorer parts of the continent, according to the BBC, adding to growing concerns that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI ), a global infrastructure program in which China is targeting economically weak states with predatory loans, has also unleashed a wave of racial slurs by Chinese citizens around the world.

The “black monster” video scandal follows years of reports of outrageously racist behavior by Chinese businessmen in Africa as part of the BRI. Among the most high-profile scandals was the unveiling in 2018 of a video of a Chinese businessman calling Kenyans, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, “ape people”; the gang beating of a Kenyan engineer working on a BRI by Chinese workers; and the use of “apartheid” facilities in workplaces for BRI projects across Africa. China routinely refers to reports of anti-Black racism inside and outside China as “isolated incidents.”

The BBC report noted that locals in Malawi believed Lu Ke was a charity worker in town teaching children Mandarin and Chinese culture. According to the children’s parents, Chinese video producers like Lu take the children out of school under the pretense of teaching them Mandarin, but do not teach them anything, leaving them essentially without an education.

Little did the Malawians know that the videos were for-profit. They told the British public broadcaster that they knew he would hit the children – sometimes with sticks – if they weren’t enthusiastic enough in the videos.

Confronted by the BBC, Lu Ke initially denied making the “black monster” video, claiming he was making Weibo videos of African children for the “public good”. He then claimed that the allegations that he made the video were a case of “misidentity” before broadly accusing Malawians of being racist towards Chinese people.

In response to the report, the Chinese embassy in Malawi initially dismissed the video as old news.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms racism in any form, by anyone or anywhere. We also noticed that the video was shot in 2020,” the embassy explained, according to local outlet Malawi24.

The statement sparked outrage in Malawi for failing to offer an apology or suggest further action to prevent such incidents in the future. Malawian Foreign Minister Nancy Tembo said her country was “disgusted, disrespected and deeply distressed” by the report.

On Thursday, the embassy issued another statement, acknowledging the outrage but again not apologizing or promising significant action. On the contrary, the statement distanced Lu from the Chinese government.

“The Chinese community in Malawi has expressed in strong terms their condemnation of racism,” read part of the statement, according to the Voice of America. “The isolated case of a stupid individual does not change the whole picture.”

Chinese diplomat Wu Peng, who heads the Department of African Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, issued a statement indirectly addressing the incident by claiming that China and Malawi “would continue to crack down on such racial discrimination videos in the future.” without going into detail. Wu was visiting Malawi at the time.

Malawi police promised to launch investigations into potentially criminal conduct linked to the videos, including child abuse. Malawi24 found in an online poll that citizens enthusiastically want Lu Ke to be prosecuted for child exploitation and hate crimes. The poll also found that Malawians were not interested in deporting Lu to China without being tried in their country. Deportation is a common way to handle cases of Chinese racism in Africa; For example, Liu Jiaqi, the man caught on video calling all Kenyans “ape people”, was simply deported home and it is not clear if he faced any consequences for his insults.

Reports have not resolved Lu Ke’s whereabouts as of press time.

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