LONDON: Air China's "Wings of China" magazine recently advised its readers travelling to London about taking certain precautions when entering areas inner-city areas mainly populated by Pakistanis, Indians and black people.
"London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people," the magazine said, according to a photograph published by CNBC.
The magazine reportedly provides safety advice to travellers based on the race and nationality of local residents.
"We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling," the magazine adds.
The remarks have caused offence among the members of the ethnic communities singled out by the magazine.
But on Chinese social media, most commenters expressed bafflement at the backlash.
In a common refrain, one user of China's Twitter-like Weibo platform asked: "This is just stating the truth ─ what is there to apologise about?"
British MP Virendra Sharma, who emigrated from India to the UK in the 1960s, complained to the Chinese government regarding the alleged racist statements.
"I am shocked and appalled that even today some people would see it as acceptable to write such blatantly untrue and racist statements," he said in an online statement.
"I have raised this issue with the Chinese ambassador, and requested that he ensures an apology is swiftly forthcoming from Air China, and the magazine is removed from circulation immediately," Sharma said.
Air China's director of publicity Xu Yuanchun told AFP they were making inquiries, saying: "Air China has dozens of magazines; it's difficult to know all of them."
Publisher of magazine apologises
The publisher of Chinese national carrier Air China's in-flight magazine apologised Thursday for “racist” travel advice offered to passengers visiting London.
In a Chinese-language statement, the publisher attributed the “inappropriate descriptions” to editorial errors, stating that they were at odds with the “original intention to actively promote the beautiful scenery of London”.
The Chinese version was worded slightly differently, stating that such neighbourhoods were “comparatively more chaotic” -- an adjective often used to describe dangerous areas.
Discussion and public awareness of racism in China is notoriously low -- often resulting in viral scandals that spark global outrage beyond the Great Firewall but cause nary a whimper of concern within the mainland.