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ABC in hot water over ‘racist’ kids’ show

China is demanding a formal apology from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over a "racist" children's television show that it says implies eating insects, rats, jellyfish and hair is an everyday part of Chinese cuisine.

The diplomatic row over the Horrible Histories episode centres on the story of ancient China Empress Wu Zetian, the only woman to ever rule China.

In an article in the state-controlled Global Times, the newspaper has claimed the ABC's Horrible Histories program had "drawn outrage and condemnation from Chinese-Australians for "broadcasting a children's television series with controversial content suggesting insects, rats and hair are used in normal Chinese recipes, which they believe is racism and demand for an apology."

"In an episode of the series, ancient China Empress Wu Zetian, who is played by a white actress, is eating insects, rats, jellyfish and hair, and invites two modern visitors, the program's hosts, to join the meal,'' the article states.

"As the visitors act disgusted, "Wu" explained it was "perfectly normal" to eat insects in China in the Tang Dynasty (618-907)."

But a spokesman for the ABC denied that the episode represented an example a white people masquerading as Asian noting the actress, Sophie Wu, in British-born but has Chinese heritage.

"The ABC has received some complaints, which will be considered by ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs as is our usual practice,'' an ABC spokesman told news.com.au.

The Global Times said the episode was a disgrace.

"This kind of racist behaviour is indeed too narrow-minded for a country," a netizen (a citizen) wrote on China's Twitter-like social networking platform Weibo.

"It's uncanny how they are always talking about anti-racism and they are actually the meanest racists," another one commented.

The ABC has come under fire for this skit which saw a white actress dress up as a Chinese person. Picture: ABC
The ABC has come under fire for this skit which saw a white actress dress up as a Chinese person. Picture: ABC


The episode is not new but from the sixth season of Horrible Histories, a sketch comedy released five years ago, that aired again in Australia recently.

Some Chinese-Australians have launched an online petition protesting warning it could cause Chinese children to be ridiculed and bullied at school.

"The program was also aired at the moment when some Western politicians constantly attacked China for COVID-19 outbreaks, launching smear campaign against the Chinese culture especially the food culture, which is indeed seen as malicious and offensive," Chen Hong, professor and director of the Australian Studies Center of East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Previously, the BBC was forced to delete an episode of the program that depicted Florence Nightingale as racist.

"We also need an apology," a Chinese student in Australia told the Global Times, "Hopefully ABC and CBBC can prove that they are really against racial discrimination, and not just another biased Westerners playing with double standards."

Empress Wu Zetian (624-705) is one of the most controversial monarchs in Chinese history, a woman who historians claim presided over a reign of "blood and terror" but remained much admired.

A teenage imperial concubine to Emperor Taizong (598-649) she also served as his secretary, playing music and reading poetry.

She then had an affair with the Emperor's youngest son, Li Zhu, who sent for Wu to be returned to court after his father died.

She is also accused of strangling her own baby to frame a rival for the murder before deposing the woman and becoming the new empress consort.

The furore over the Horrible Histories episode comes as China ramps up attacks over alleged war crimes involving Australian SAS soldiers.

"What has been revealed in the ADF report obviously violated International Law. They are deliberate war crimes," Su Hao, the founding director of the Centre for Strategic and Peace Studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, writes in the Global Times.

"The West claims they are maintaining the order, but what they actually do is to make order more chaotic," he said.

Originally published as ABC in hot water over 'racist' kids' show


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