Chinese Government Ministry Faces Backlash for Brownface Video Promotion

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A Chinese government ministry has faced criticism and controversy after an online video featuring people in brownface singing an Indian song was posted and subsequently taken down. The video, created by a popular influencer named Hao Ge Ge, was shared by an official account under the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) as part of a road safety promotion.

Brownface, similar to blackface, involves individuals darkening their skin and is widely condemned as a racist caricature in many parts of the world. However, the concept of brownface is unfamiliar to many in China, leading to cultural insensitivity and backlash when the video was shared.

In the video, men wearing turbans and women in what appear to be south or central Asian costumes sing the Indian song Tunak Tunak Tun with Chinese lyrics comparing whose vehicle is superior. The post gained significant attention on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, garnering over 1.2 million likes.

While the post received positive feedback and hundreds of shares within China, it faced criticism from individuals outside the country. Some accused the video of mocking India, Bollywood, and Indians. Chinese commenters even warned of potential trouble if the video were shared in India, expressing that it would not be perceived as humorous.

The video was shared by the Bureau of Public Order, a branch of the MPS, with its large following on the social media platform Weibo. However, the post, along with similar ones shared by lower-level Chinese police agencies, has since been removed from their feeds.

This incident is not the first time China has faced racism controversies. In 2018, a skit on a popular Lunar New Year TV show drew widespread criticism for featuring a Chinese actress in blackface. Last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pledged zero tolerance for racism and vowed to crack down on racial discrimination videos after a BBC investigation revealed a Chinese filmmaker using racist content in personalized greetings filmed with Malawian children.

The removal of the video suggests recognition of the cultural insensitivity and the potential for backlash. It highlights the need for greater awareness and understanding of racial sensitivities on a global scale, particularly in the age of social media where content can quickly spread and impact international perceptions.