Legal experts in China have called for stricter law enforcement to deal with a local detergent commercial showing a black man washed into a white, while state-run newspaper accused western media for “magnifying racism” in China over the controversial laundry advertisement.
After the release of the advertisement that caused outrage on social media, legal experts have called for more awareness of racial sensitivity.
According to China’s Advertisement Law, which was updated last year, any content containing or implying national, racial, religious and gender discrimination is prohibited in adverts and incurs penalties, state-run China Daily said.
While the company has apologised and withdrew the advertisement, it is not clear whether any action will be taken against it.
Liu Junhai, a professor of civil and commercial law at Renmin University of China, said the commercial reflects the lack of public awareness about racial issues in China.
“Chinese brands should stay alert because of fast- spreading social media,” Liu said.
Sensitivity about racial issues among advertisers and the public in China is not as high as in Western countries, he said.
“The authorities should strengthen awareness through education and supervision of the advertising industry as well as punishing cases of discrimination,” he said.
The laundry detergent commercial of China sparked uproar by showing a woman putting a black man into a washing machine who came out as a light-skinned Chinese man after a wash.
Condemning the advertisement, state-run Global Times said “whoever designed the callous commercial seems to be completely unaware of racial discrimination and its sensitivity in the Western society.”
“Qiaobi, the company behind the commercial, was little known until the advert was released and raised questions about the company’s branding capability,” it said.
“Meanwhile, the Western media might have gone to the extreme by intensively reporting on the advert and accusing the Chinese of racial discrimination. Chinese society has never clearly distinguished races and hence the racial issue has never been part of Chinese thinking but always considered as an alien phenomenon,” it said.
“Unless Qiaobi intended to promote its brand by courting controversy, it made a genuine mistake, with no intent to offend the public. In this case, the Western media can understandably show their displeasure. But they might have gone too far in endlessly exaggerating the issue,” it said.
“We cannot hand over all the say to Western media. Racism has been one of the major evils in the Western modern development. When some Westerners magnify racism in China just because of a laundry detergent advert, why don’t they also think of their detestable reputation of racists?” the editorial said.