Dutch musician's 'racist' comments against Chinese go viral, draw ire

Holland's Got Talent contestant Xiao Wang endures mockery on television

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 2:32pm

A judge from Holland’s Got Talent, a popular singing competition television programme in the Netherlands, has come under fire for making multiple racial slurs against a Chinese contestant.

In an episode that aired on November 17, Holland’s Got Talent judge Cornelis Willem Heuckeroth, a Dutch singer who goes by the name Gordon, cracked repeated jokes about Xiao Wang, a PhD student in economics and business who had come on the show to exhibit his singing skills in classical music. 

“Which number are you singing?” Heuckeroth asked after Wang explained that he would perform an aria from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto. “Number 39 with rice?”

After Wang’s singing drew cheers and enthusiastic applause from the crowd, Heuckeroth said that the singer’s voice was a “surplise,” mimicking a stereotypical Chinese accent.

“Honestly, this is the best Chinese I’ve had in weeks,” Heuckeroth added. “And it’s not a takeaway.”

Heuckeroth, who also referred to Wang as “the People’s Republic of China,” voted for the 30-year-old to remain on the show as a contestant, but followed this praise with a sideways comment in Dutch that Wang looked like he belonged in a Chinese restaurant.

Fellow judges Chantal Janzen, a Dutch actress, and Dan Karaty, an American choreographer, remained silent during most of Heuckeroth’s comments until Wang had left the stage. 

“You’re really not supposed to say things like that to people,” Karaty said. “That’s just awful.”

Video: "Holland's Got Talent" judges make racist comments to a Chinese contestant

Heuckeroth’s remarks are beginning to draw criticism from international media outlets, and the UK’s Daily Mirror described his jabs as “sensationally…casual racist jokes.”  Both English and Chinese-speaking netizens have also lashed out at the television host through various social media outlets.

“Xiao Wang’s performance was amazing and yet all that judge could see was his race,” wrote a user of popular internet forum Reddit, where conversation of the incident has attracted over a thousand posts. “It’s…downright depressing. As an Asian person, it’s kind of sad sometimes when [race] is all people see you for.”

On Chinese social network Sina Weibo, bloggers compared Heuckeroth’s remarks to a recent controversial skit by US comedian Jimmy Kimmel. The skit, which contained a joke from a six-year-old who suggested that the US should “kill everyone in China,” inspired protests from many Chinese Americans, eventually resulting in multiple apologies from the comedian himself.

“There should be protests and demonstrations to call for [Heuckeroth] to step down,” one Weibo user wrote. “Kimmel’s skit seems innocent in comparison to these remarks, and at least Kimmel was apologetic.”

Eva Peters, a spokeswoman for the television broadcaster RTL4, declined to comment on the issue. The show is currently in its sixth season. Wang did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.

The Chinese embassy in The Hague has "noted the show", according to an emailed statement.