Lunar New Year show sparks racism row over blackface

In a second such incident in China since 2018, performers for a state TV show wore outfits depicting Africans and darkened their skin with makeup.

Organisations and advocates for Africans in China also criticised the show, which aired on Thursday evening [Screenshot CCTV]

China’s state broadcaster has come under fire once more for a performance featuring dancers made up to look African during its annual gala show to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

During CCTV’s four-hour show which typically draws hundreds of millions of viewers, performers appeared on stage wearing outfits that approximated African clothing and had darkened their skin with makeup.

“The New Year Gala director team is just stupid and vicious,” said one of a number of users who took to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, to criticise the skit.

“Is there any difference between Chinese people doing blackface and white people slanting their eyes to make fun of Asians?”


Another part of the event showed Chinese performers in ancient Egyptian costumes as well as in Spanish dress, which a journalist has described as a ham-handed appropriation of other cultures.

The gala sparked similar controversy in 2018 over a skit featuring actress Lou Naiming. She appeared on stage in colourful garb, her face and arms coloured brown, carrying a fruit basket on her head and accompanied by someone costumed as a monkey.

Organisations and advocates for Africans in China also criticised the show, which aired on Thursday evening.

“While supporters of the practice allege that blackface centers on empathy & realism, it’s difficult to disassociate it from a long history of minstrelsy & fixation on problematic caricatures,” Black China Caucus, an activist group, said on Twitter.

Complaints of racism also erupted in 2018, when Chinese actor Lou Naiming (centre) performed a skit, where actors also wore blackface [Stringer/Reuters]

“Next year, we hope organisers decide to end this practice & hire some of thousands of Black people living in many parts of China.”

The show, which this year focused on celebrating Chinese medical workers and the country’s space programme, has been a television staple since it was first broadcast in 1983.

Racism directed at Africans in China has also been on the rise.

Last year, several Africans living in China were subjected to humiliation, as they were singled out and chased down by police officers who accused them of being infected with the coronavirus.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters