Chinese firm behind 'racist' detergent ad apologises

BEIJING • A Chinese firm has apologised over an advertisement for detergent which has provoked a storm of allegations of racism.

The manufacturer of the Qiaobi brand of detergent said it strongly opposed and condemned racial discrimination, and was sorry the advert had caused controversy, reported BBC News.

In a statement of apology late on Saturday, Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics also said it is foreign critics who need to lighten up.

"We express our apology for the harm caused to the African people because of the spread of the ad and the over-amplification by the media," it said. "We sincerely hope the public and the media will not over-read it."

The commercial for the Qiaobi brand - which has gone viral in the West - shows a black man whistling and winking at a young Chinese woman, who calls him over, puts a detergent packet into his mouth and forces him head first into a washing machine.

She sits on the lid while the man shrieks. Moments later an Asian man emerges in clean clothes, and the woman grins.

It first appeared in March but was halted amid protests this week which followed extensive media coverage of the controversy.

A spokesman for the company said a shorter version was broadcast in China, which did not feature the black actor, and he had no idea how the full-length clip ended up online.

The company says it has withdrawn links to the advertisement, and would like others to stop sharing it.

The ad has provoked an uproar on US news websites, which cited it as an example of racist attitudes towards black people in China, reported Agence France-Presse.

"This ad is blatantly racist... It's also a reminder that attitudes over race and skin colour in China can be very bad," said Vox.com.

But it has attracted little attention in its home country, with few comments on social media, and fewer than 2,000 views of the same ad on popular video-sharing site Youku.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese firm behind 'racist' detergent ad apologises'. Print Edition | Subscribe