A Chinese filmmaker, who was exposed by the BBC, has been arrested in Malawi for making racist videos where local children refer to themselves as the Chinese equivalent of the N-word.
Lu Ke, a resident of Malawi from China was found by BBC Africa Eye after a video (VPN required) where a group of village children stand in front of the camera and in Chinese and in unison say, “I’m a black monster. My IQ is low” went viral.
Lu denies making the racist video, but during an undercover operation by the BBC, he admitted to a Chinese journalist that the video was his before saying his friend made it.
The term ‘black monster’ is a direct translation from Chinese to English, but it is the language’s equivalent of the N-word.
The video originally went viral in February 2020 when it was posted on Weibo by the account 黑人笑话社, which translates to Jokes About Black People Club.
On June 13, BBC News published an 8-minute video called ‘Africa Eye: Racism for sale.’ The video is a shortened version of the 50-minute documentary that was produced by BBC Africa Eye.
In the documentary, journalist Runako Celina who used to live in China and speaks Chinese, works with Malawi journalist Henry Mhango to track down the people responsible for the video.
Celina shows that in China, there is a market for greeting videos where people in small villages in Africa read messages that are written in Chinese and are then sold on Taobao for around RMB70.
The videos are used to celebrate birthdays, congratulate nuptials, send thanks and even spur on the country during COVID-19 outbreaks.
Lu makes the videos and claimed that he does so as a way of spreading Chinese culture to the local people.
These videos, while seemingly innocent, have racist connotations and can be classified as ‘poverty porn,’ as they often feature people from poor villages being used as entertainment and the profit of others.
Other videos are just outright racist and show villagers repeating messages such as, “We will not go to China” and “Yellow skin and dark eyes are the most beautiful color.”
In the documentary, Celina and her team search the ‘black monster’ video for clues as to who made it and trace its origins to Njewa village, 2.5 kilometers away from the capital Lilongwe. Once there, Mhango finds a Chinese man making videos with young village children.
Lu, known by the children as Susu, or 叔叔 (shu shu), meaning uncle in Chinese, was said to be paying the children USD0.5 per day, even on days when they were meant to be in school.
Lu had previously spent many years in the nearby village Kamwendo and in an interview, a six-year-old boy named Bright admitted to Celina that Lu used to “pinch us if we made mistakes and when we did something wrong, he would whip us with a stick.”
The boy’s mother said that if she tried to take Bright away, Lu would come and bring him back.
Over two meetings with the Chinese undercover journalist known only as Paul, Lu doesn’t only admit to making the black monster video (before denying it), but he also says, “Don’t treat them [the villagers] as your friends. Never pity them, you have to remember that. Never pity them. No matter the family situation, never pity them. This is how you should treat black people. Remember that.”
Last week, Malawian police launched an investigation but couldn’t arrest Lu as he was nowhere to be found. He was later discovered to be in Zambia and was subsequently detained.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services spokesman Pasqually Zulu said that communications between Zambia and Malawi are underway so that Lu can be sent back in order to continue the investigation.
Chinese diplomat Wu Peng said the issue had been discussed with Malawi’s foreign minister.
Wu said in a tweet, "China has been cracking down on those unlawful online acts in the past years. We'll continue to crack down on such racial discrimination videos in the future."
[Cover image via YouTube]