Stranded at Tehran airport, Chinese passengers break out into chants of ‘China!’

Society & Culture

Chants of “China!” erupted at an Iranian airport on January 29 as hundreds of Chinese passengers were stranded at the terminal for more than a day because of delayed flights caused by bad weather.

AFP reports that amid a massive snowstorm that has swept Iran since last Saturday, international airports in the country’s capital were forced to close, including Imam Khomeini International Airport, which stranded some 240 Chinese travelers.

Tehran airport

The incident became an online controversy after a video filmed by one of the stuck passengers was shared on Chinese social media. In the clip, chants of “China!” in Mandarin echoed through a crowd of Chinese travelers, who appeared to be clueless about when their delayed flights would be resumed.

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The video quickly went viral on Weibo, with many internet users criticizing the passengers for “forcing their plane to take off” by acting like “giant babies of communism,” a term borrowed from Chinese psychologist Wu Zhihong’s 武志红 book The Country of “Giant Babies”: A Domestic Psychologist Examining the Chinese National Character (巨婴国:国内心理学家系统透视中国国民性).

In a 2017 interview with Southern Daily, Wu explained that “giant babies” are Chinese adults who only behave on their own will and are extremely self-centered. In addition, when things do not go the way they want, they become furious and very aggressive.

However, when the Global Times reached out to one passenger at the scene, named Xiao Yue 小悦, she denied accusations of making angry chants, saying that what the video captured was joyful and exciting chants by the crowd on the afternoon of January 29 when they learned that they had been offered hotel accommodations with the help of the Chinese embassy in Iran.

“We were out traveling and of course we know that a plane will take off as soon as it’s ready. We won’t risk our lives to board a plane when takeoff conditions are dangerous,” Xiao said, adding that she didn’t anticipate that the passengers would be attacked online.

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According to the Global Times, the Chinese embassy in Iran immediately contacted Mahan Airlines when it learned about the incident. After coordination, the carrier began to send warm food to stranded Chinese passengers on the evening of January 28. By the end of the next day, most passengers were provided with accomodations.

Xu Wei 徐炜, a minister-counselor from the embassy, told the newspaper that more than half of the Chinese passengers had left the airport as of January 31, and the rest all had other flights arranged for them.

“As all highways in Tehran were blocked due to the heavy snowfalls, our car got permitted to drive on the highway only after we negotiated with Iranian police for a long time and signed a security guarantee,” Xu said. “The car sent by the Chinese embassy was the only car on that road.”

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The Global Times also reports that some passengers were embroiled in some unpleasant disputes with Iranian police due to their filming, which is not allowed at Iranian airports according to local laws.

Earlier this week, we reported an altercation at the Tokyo airport between stranded Chinese passengers and Japanese police. The news stirred some controversy online over inappropriate demonstration of patriotism in foreign countries as a widely circulated video online showed the crowd breaking into a rendition of the Chinese national anthem to express a sense of solidarity.

Altercation between stranded Chinese tourists and Japanese police at Tokyo airport

Also this week, on January 27, an eight-hour flight delay at a Sri Lanka airport prompted the local Chinese embassy to send staff there, hoping to keep stranded Chinese passengers “calm and rational about the unexpected circumstance.”