A video emerged this week that shows a foreign male slapping and berating a Chinese man on the Guangzhou metro system.
The incident started when the Chinese commuter allegedly called the foreigner the N-word. The foreign male’s response was swift and aggressive, with the video footage showing the Chinese male hunched and concealing his ears as he is attacked both physically and verbally.
Some netizens, witnesses and multiple media articles have pointed out the non-national man may have mistaken the Mandarin word for ‘that’ (那个 or na ge in Pinyin) as the N-word, as both have very similar pronunciations.
Other sources have claimed the Chinese male called the foreigner a ‘black devil’ (黑鬼 or hei gui in Pinyin), a derogatory Mandarin label for people with black skin.
Another version of the story removes the racial element completely and suggests the Chinese man was attempting to steal the foreigner’s phone – an entirely believable scenario for anyone who has spent any time on Guangzhou’s public transportation system.
The phone variation of the story is backed up by several comments the foreigner is heard making in the video, including: “Don’t do that. I will take you to the police station,” (it would be rare for someone to be taken to the police station for a racist slur) and “Don’t f*cking take my phone again.”
There are currently a lot of unknowns surrounding the incident and, since the video only really captures the physical and verbal assault, much of the information about what led to the confrontation is simply hearsay.
Possibly most troubling, discussion on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo has been predominantly focused on the race of the foreign male instead of the reasons behind the altercation. Some netizens have even gone as far as assuming the man is an illegal immigrant, with one Weibo user commenting, “We need to appeal the government to repatriate people who have been living illegally. They have added burdens.”
Despite the large and longstanding community of African descendants living and working in Guangzhou, many immigrants to the city still claim to face systematic and social discrimination – something that was highlighted in May when a racist laundry detergent advertisement, featuring a black man being turned into a light-skinned Chinese man, caused a tidal wave of backlash.
Guangzhou police have asked both men, as well as witnesses, to contact them and are warning expats to follow public transportation rules and Chinese laws.
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