‘We’ll thrash United Airlines until we get an apology’: millions of Chinese view eviction video as enraged users vow vengeance
Social media posts on violent eviction from plane have been viewed 330 million times on mainland, where many see the incident as racial discrimination
A social media topic page for an incident involving security guards dragging an Asian-American passenger from an overbooked flight in Chicago on Sunday has been viewed by hundreds of millions in China.
The incident sparked outrage on Chinese social media, with the eviction of the passenger from the domestic flight condemned as “racial discrimination”.
The 69-year-old man was seen being pulled by aviation security officers from his window seat and dragged down the aisle in mobile phone footage posted on social media on Sunday night. The passenger was shown later with blood on his face.
He was one of four passengers that were taken off the flight to accommodate four airline employees who needed transportation.
US media reported that the passenger was David Dao, a doctor. Initial reports said the man was a Chinese-American but the BBC on Tuesday quoted another passenger as saying that he was Vietnamese and had lived in Kentucky for 20 years.
Attempts to contact David Dao and wife in Kentucky had been unsuccessful.
By Tuesday night, there had been more than 330 million views on Sina Weibo of #UnitedForcesPassengerOffPlane posts, making it one of the site’s hottest topics.
More than 38,000 internet users have signed a #ChineseLivesMatters petition demanding that the US government investigate the incident.
Among the most popular Weibo posts was from Chinese-American comedian Joe Wong.
“Many Chinese people feel they are racially discriminated against but don’t speak out for fear of losing face, causing Western mainstream media and the public to not take discrimination against Asians seriously,” he said.
Another Weibo user, Qian Qian, said: “If you beat your customers, we will thrash your reputation and your market share around the world, until we hear a sincere apology from your bleeding mouth.”
The airline last year celebrated its 30th anniversary of flights to China, but the incident is likely to upset its ambition to attract more Chinese passengers.
United began direct service to China in 1986 and now flies from five US cities to five cities on the mainland, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.
During the incident, the passenger protested that he was on his way to treat patients in Louisville, Kentucky, and that the airline’s decision to kick him off the plane along with three others was due to his race.
“He said, more or less: ‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese’,” bystander Tyler Bridges told The Washington Post.
United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz said on Twitter that the incident was “upsetting”.
One of the security guards involved in the eviction has been placed on administrative leave for not following protocol and an investigation is pending.
Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation chairwoman Carol Ng Man-yee said that it was not uncommon for airlines to offload passengers to make way for cabin crew members rostered for other flights at the destination.
A Cathay Pacific spokesman said the airline did overbook its services “to minimise the effect of no-show passengers”, but that it would make alternative flight arrangements for the passengers involved before boarding commenced.
An HK Express spokesman said it also overbooked on selected flights, primarily in off-peak travel periods.
“We would like to highlight that HK Express never displaces passengers for staff when overbooking has occurred,” he said.
If the airline was unable to secure volunteers to take the next flight, he said check-in would close when the flight was full and airline staff would offer affected guests monetary compensation, a seat on a later flight and hotel accommodations.
Additional reporting by Phila Siu