• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 11:11am
NewsHong Kong

‘Blackface’ advert where Chinese man plays Filipina maid sparks race row in Hong Kong

Malaysian bank pulls video featuring Chinese actor playing a Filipino domestic helper

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 1:35pm

An advertisement for domestic helper insurance starring a Chinese man as a Filipino maid has been withdrawn after it was condemned as racist – but the bank responsible insisted it never intended to cause offence.

The advertisement for Malaysia’s Hong Leong Bank caused outrage on social media and was condemned by domestic helpers’ rights groups. It showed the actor wearing dark orange make-up and a curly wig as he portrayed a clumsy maid named “Maria”. The same actor plays her employer.

Watch: Insurance commercial depicting a male Chinese actor as a Filipina maid

The bank confirmed it had withdrawn the advertisement, but stopped short of an apology.

“We regret that our recent advertisement … resulted in comments about the advertisement being racist,” said spokeswoman Norlina Yunus. “At no time did Hong Leong … intend to offend any person or be to any extent discriminatory on grounds of race, sex or otherwise.”

At no time did Hong Leong … intend to offend any person or be to any extent discriminatory on grounds of race, sex or otherwise
Hong Leong spokeswoman Norlina Yunus

The advertisement row comes amid growing concern about the treatment of domestic helpers and of the dangers of racial stereotyping.

“You are making comedy out of someone, out of a community,” said Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body. “For [Hongkongers] it’s funny, but what they don’t realise is what’s funny is actually racist.”

Lestari questioned why the bank did not hire someone from Indonesia or the Philippines to play the maid.

The Equal Opportunities commission was critical of the ad, saying:

"The EOC disapproves of the stereotypical portrayal of domestic helpers in the advertisement and regrets that it has offended the migrant workers community."

It cautioned advertisers saying they should ensure "respect for human dignity, irrespective of race and ethnicity."

Posters on the bank’s Facebook page called for a boycott.

“The advertisement featuring a domestic worker in ‘blackface’ is racist and deeply offensive. It is simply dehumanising,” wrote Yael Marwah.

“Why do you have to solidify the omnipresent racial and cultural stereotypes?” added Marcin Rutecki.

The row comes only weeks after anger over textbooks that asked children to match people of different races to particular jobs. It also follows a series of high-profile cases involving the abuse of domestic helpers.

Others took to Twitter and Facebook to blast the advert.

“You guys should really take down that ad and apologise for it ... It’s really not appropriate for a professional representation of your financial services,” Kahlil Stultz wrote on the bank’s Facebook page.

“Why do you have to solidify the omnipresent racial and cultural stereotypes that are hurting so many people?” added Marcin Rutecki.

The row comes weeks after separate controversy over a Hong Kong school textbook, which critics said encouraged children to racially stereotype their neighbours.

The book asked children to match nationalities to the “appropriate” job description – such as Indonesian for domestic helpers, or Japanese for sushi restaurant owners.

The case of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who allegedly endured a months-long torture campaign by her Hong Kong boss, has put a spotlight on the working conditions faced by the financial hub’s domestic workers.

Her employer, a 44-year-old mother-of-two, is on trial and last week denied all the charges against her.

Amnesty International last year condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by some of the city’s domestic helpers and accused authorities of “inexcusable” inaction.

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This article is now closed to comments

53ad7249-8c9c-460e-bd89-08eb0a3209ca
Hong Kong Chinese have derogatory terms for many other ethnic groups. I am sick of being called a "****". My Hong Kong Chinese friends insist it's harmless, but the fact is, there is a proper term to describe westerners, and it's not "****" or "gweimui" or "hak gwei". But they don't understand because most people in HK are Chinese, and they don't see a problem with calling other people derogatory names. It doesn't insult them.
zhelu1985@live.com
Filipinos are some of the nicest most decent human beings in HK. The same cannot be said for the territories "native" inhabitants.
johnyuan
The bank is both a victim and victimizer.
.
Politically correctness on race is not only a social responsibility but most have been written into law in US. Hong Kong is conservative and a backwater city especially for the business sector. Hong Kong people should feel embarrass of this insensitive ad thinking all is right when in business speak business – I sell domestic helper coverage insurance so let me pick on the Filipinos to be direct – they are domestic helpers who most likely will break valuable things around the house.
.
Really low advertising skill too.
jayb
with all due repsect, you really have no clue about affirmative (equal opportunity) laws in US. first, in US, what is written into law is very different from what is APPLIED. talk to any EEO lawyer, you will know asians, namely chinese, korean, japanese are not considered as "protected race". you can sue but the chance of success is miniscule. in reality corporations have no incentive to hire asian because in practicality, "minorities" mean blacks, women, hispanics. institutions, from universities to multinational corporations are actively recruiting blacks, women, hispanics but not asians. in fact, asians are the "handicapped" race as elite schools are trying hard to screen out asians from their freshmen class. this is why asian americans are fighting to prevent California from enacting race based admission policy. they know if race based admission is enacted, asians will be the first to suffer as admission is no longer based on scholastic scores and high school grades.
rensi.rosales@gmail.com
Ching chong bok bik whak lim ko pu ot
anson
Too many comments on this appear to want to argue that the Chinese are victims elsewhere so the Chinese have some right to be racist. Racism is stupid. Racists are stupid. Is that stereotyping? Perhaps. Some racists have a political axe to grind. They are not stupid and perhaps even in their hearts not racist, but the majority of racists are just plain stupid.
However, in this case could it not be argued that some non-Chinese are simply jumping on the latest bandwagon - textbook case - to have a swipe at Chinese people. I am not Chinese. Many of my extended family are Chinese and my wife is. Consequently as a good (weak) husband we watch what she wants on TV. I know from TV viewing that a very popular satirical show in Hong Kong has men acting as women. I think that perhaps this was why the producers came up with the idea for the ad. If Filipinos and others know the context of the ad, then perhaps they wouldn't feel justified in their racist stereotyping of the Chinese as being a nation of racists. I hope I have not stereotyped Filipinos as being people who like to put down Chinese. I am sure it is only a minority that like to do so.
michaelhctam@gmail.com
These westerners love to critisize Chinese all the time. When Chinese do it, its racist! When others do it, its righteous! When China is capitalist they steal jobs and cheat others! When China is communist they are brainwashed and evil! When Chinese defend themselves its barbarous! When others attack Chinese its justice! I would like to give all these hypocritical commenters on SCMP a nice brown paper bag they can **** in so they can deeply inhale and be intoxicated by it. Your own farts smell good dont they?
mercedes2233
I would have supported you if your language wasn't so disgusting.
mh0908
This is not racist. This is bad taste. Saturday Night Live does it a lot more professionally. Fred Armisen played Obama on SNL.
caractacus
Turn the tables and the Chinese are up in arms at the slightest aspersion about their race. Time they learned some sensitivity about other races.

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