Human Rights Watch Urges China to Curb Anti-Black Social Media Content

An analysis found pervasive and unchecked racism on the Chinese internet despite the government’s censorship tools.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on the Chinese government to condemn widespread anti-Black racism on the Chinese internet. The organization is also urging Chinese social media platforms to delete racially offensive content with the same urgency that they remove posts that criticize the Chinese government.

The racist content, which often promotes violence, is typically created by social media users who are trying to increase their traffic and make money, according to the HRW report published Wednesday (Aug. 16).

HRW’s analysis of videos and posts since late 2021 shows that Chinese social media platforms –  including Bilibili, Douyin, Kuaishou, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu – fail to address racist content. They call out the lack of action on this issue as a violation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The human rights organization also criticized the government’s inaction and hypocrisy on the issue.

“The Chinese government likes to tout China-Africa anti-colonial solidarity and unity, but at the same time ignores pervasive hate speech against Black people on the Chinese internet. Beijing should recognize that undertaking investments in Africa and embracing China-Africa friendship won’t undo harm caused by unaddressed racism,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at HRW, stated.

HRW found certain categories of racist content:  They include depictions of impoverished Africans dependent on the generosity of wealthy Chinese saviors, criticism of interracial relationship between Chinese women and Black men as contaminating the Chinese gene pool, Chinese social media users impersonating Black people and spreading false information, and the use of racist symbols and language to attack Black people.

Racist content continues to surface — even though several Chinese social media platforms have published community standards banning content that promotes hate. HRW said Bilibili, Kuaishou, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu did not respond to its June 2023 letters regarding their policies and response to anti-Black racism on their platforms.

“Major Chinese social media platforms are failing to fulfill their own guidelines to address pervasive racist content,” Wang said. “Chinese authorities should stop facilitating this toxic environment.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is aggressive in blocking content that criticizes the regime. But it allows racist content to go unabated with a few exceptions, such as backlash from African governments that are economic and diplomatic partners, the report said.

China has, at times, perpetuated anti-Black racism. This includes the state TV station’s broadcast of the 2018 Lunar New Year gala that depicted Chinese actors in blackface.

People Are Disgusted And Outraged By 'Racist' Chinese New Year Sketch Featuring Asian Actors In Blackface

Despite the outcry, HRW noted that the station produced and broadcast a similar blackface skit for its 2021 gala.

The organization called on the government to comply with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which China signed.

It obligates countries to “condemn racial discrimination” and take steps aimed at “eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races.” It also requests countries “not to sponsor, defend, or support racial discrimination by any persons or organizations.”

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