A major Chinese airline faces accusations of racism after warning its passengers to take extra care when entering suburbs of London “mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people”.
The offending airline is Air China, which will in November start services between Sydney and Chengdu in western China, capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. The airline has set up a new promotional partnership with the NSW Government.
Air China is Asia’s third biggest airline and flies twice daily between London and Beijing.
According to reports in the London Sun, Air China’s in-flight magazine Wings of China, reported that: “London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people.
“We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.”
The warning is said to have been repeated in both Mandarin and English in a feature in the magazine about London. A Chinese journalist was enraged by the comments and tweeted a picture of the offending phrases to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who was born in South London to a working-class British Pakistani family.
Just last month, Mayor Khan declared #LondonIsOpen for culture and visitors, saying that American and British tourists agreed London is best city in the world and vast majority of transatlantic visitors will return to the capital. See: London offers best cultural experience of any city in the world, with US and UK visitors flocking to leading cultural attractions
The Wings of China article has sparked outrage, with politicians demanding an apology, the Sun reports.
The paper quoted Lambeth and Southwark London assembly member Florence Eshalomi calling the views “outdated and near-on racist”. Eshalomi said London wanted people “who embrace our diversity and different culture – that is the make-up of London. If airlines have a problem with that then we don’t want them in London.”
Race is a sensitive issue for Britain’s capital, a city where the percentage of residents describing themselves as ‘white British’ has fallen over the past 40 years from 86% in 1976 to just 45% now. London is far more racially diverse than other parts of England, but is considered a safe city, particularly considering it is one of the largest cities in Europe.
Statistics on crime are difficult to analyse and depend on the type of crime but, as in most cities, London’s incidence of crime varies widely across the city, borough by borough.
Data released last year by London’s Metropolitan Police under Freedom of Information laws, focussing on knife crime and published in London’s Evening, revealed the worst five London boroughs for knife crime in 2012-14 to be Southwark (605 incidents), Lambeth (599), Newham (555), Haringey (482) and Ealing (443).
The safest boroughs on the same basis were Richmond-upon-Thames, with just 76 incidents, and Kingston-upon-Thames with 85 stabbings.
Tourists are very unlikely to be involved.
Written by Peter Needham