BEIJING (AFP) - China social media users were in an uproar Tuesday (April 11) over viral footage of an Asian American dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight, decrying perceived racism and calling for a boycott.
The videos taken by fellow passengers and posted to Twitter showed the man being forcibly pulled screaming from his seat by three security personnel.
Several reports say the man is Chinese-American, while media reports later identified him as Dr David Dao, a Vietnamese-American grandfather aged 69.
Twitter, along with other Western websites such as Facebook and Google, is blocked on the mainland by the country's ruling Communist Party, which fears the unregulated spread of information it deems politically sensitive.
But footage of the Sunday showdown on the flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, was reposted to China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, where the subject quickly became the top trending topic, garnering over 120 million views and 80,000 comments - many of them highly nationalistic in tone.
"Shameless! We won't forgive them. Ethnic Chinese around the world please boycott United Airlines!" wrote one commentator.
"There is a long history of discrimination against Asians. I hope Chinese people realise this reality and support domestic products," another user opined. "Don't feed those who look down on us!" It is a common sentiment among many mainlanders to view ethnic Chinese living abroad - even those with no ties to China - as compatriots.
United Airlines claims itself to be the biggest carrier to China, with more non-stop US-China flights and to more Chinese cities than any other airline, according to its website.
The company did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment, but its CEO Oscar Munoz apologised for "having to re-accommodate" customers such as the Chinese-American man, who was being contacted directly to resolve the situation.
"Asian American or not, as a consumer who paid for his ticket, he was treated like a prisoner," one Weibo commenter said. "Things are better here at home."