United passenger removal video goes viral in China

Society & Culture

Top society and culture news for April 11, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Big bucks for catching spies in Beijing."

The hashtag “United Airlines forcibly removes passenger from airplane” (#美联航强制乘客下机# měi liánháng qiángzhì chéngkè xiàjī) became the top trending topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Tuesday, with 480 million views and 223,000 comments as we finalize this newsletter. Video and photographs of the man being removed Monday from an overbooked flight by security officers at the Chicago O’Hare Airport were widely circulated. When news emerged that he was Chinese or Vietnamese, the online reaction in both China and Vietnam was swift.

On Weibo, one of the top threads was started by Chinese-born comedian Joe Wong, whose post says (in Chinese) that “many Chinese feel they are subject to discrimination but don’t speak out about it in order to save face, and this leads to the Western media and the public not taking discrimination against Asians seriously.”

Some found humor in the news: one sarcastic commenter wrote: “Let me tell you a joke: The U.S. is the world’s best country for human rights!” Another said, “You still haven’t settled the Ding Yizhen 丁义诊 affair, and now you do this!” The reference is to a scene from the hit anti-corruption TV show In the Name of the People in which the character Ding Yizhen, a corrupt mayor, boards a United flight to escape to the U.S. and orders champagne to “celebrate freedom.” A meme circulating now shows him celebrating simply for “not getting kicked off the plane.”