Chinese New Year Gala Features Blackface Performers

Black group calls broadcast 'extremely disappointing'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2021 5:10 AM CST
Chinese New Year Gala Features Blackface Performers
Worshippers burn joss sticks as they pray at the Wong Tai Sin Temple, in Hong Kong, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Chinese state TV included dancers in blackface portraying Africans during a national broadcast as Asia welcomed the lunar Year of the Ox with subdued festivities Friday amid travel curbs to contain renewed coronavirus outbreaks. The "African Song and Dance" performance Thursday came at start of the Spring Festival Gala, one of the world’s most-watched TV programs. It included Chinese dancers in African-style costumes and dark face makeup beating drums, the AP reports. The five-hour annual program, which state TV has said in the past is seen by as many as 800 million viewers, also included tributes to nurses, doctors, and others who fought the coronavirus pandemic that began in central China in late 2019.

China's ruling Communist Party tries to promote an image of unity with African nations as fellow developing economies. But state broadcaster China Central Television has faced criticism over using blackface to depict African people in past New Year broadcasts. On Twitter, Black Livity China, a group for people of African descent who work in or with China, called the broadcast "extremely disappointing." It noted CCTV’s 2018 Spring Festival Gala featured performers in blackface with a monkey. Elsewhere in China, Buddhist and Daoist temples that usually are packed with holiday worshippers were closed. Streets in major cities were largely empty.

(More China stories.)

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