After United Controversy, Chinese Social Media Users Express Outrage

“Many Chinese people have felt that they’ve been discriminated against but didn’t have the courage to speak out."

After a passenger was dragged off a United Airlines flight, the controversy became the No. 1 trending topic on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.

Users sounded off on Sunday’s airline incident, during which Chicago airport security officers violently dragged David Dao, a doctor of Asian descent, off of a flight headed to Louisville.

Though fellow passengers have been quoted as saying he is both Vietnamese and Chinese, Dao’s reported account of feeling racially profiled is inciting outrage among Asians everywhere.

Passenger Tyler Bridges was quoted by The Washington Post as saying, “He said, more or less, ‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese.’”

The quote, along with the graphic video of the incident, struck a chord with Chinese people, on social media. And many felt the treatment that Dao received was unjust.

On Weibo, people shared petitions protesting United Airlines’ treatment of Dao.

Some users even cut up their United membership cards and posted them to illustrate their anger. Others stated that they felt the incident was racially-charged.

Social media users also compared the incident to the recent Airbnb controversy involving Dyne Suh, a 25-year-old law student, whose reservation was canceled by a host because of Suh’s ethnicity.

““Many Chinese people have felt that they’ve been discriminated against but didn’t have the courage to speak out.””

Comedian Joe Wong, whose Weibo post went viral, explained that he agrees with what Dao was quoted as saying, applauding the passenger for speaking out. He noted that Chinese people have often received unjust treatment in the past, however the issues have rarely attracted attention.

“Many Chinese people have felt that they’ve been discriminated against but didn’t have the courage to speak out,” Wong wrote, according to a The Huffington Post translation. “That’s why Western mainstream media and the public don’t take discrimination against Chinese people seriously.”

Another user explained that racism towards Asians is nothing new, pointing to several examples including Chris Rock’s jokes at the Oscars ceremony last year along with the Jimmy Kimmel skit during which a child suggested “killing everyone in China.” The user urged people to be more vocal about racism they experience.

“Remember, there’s no single race that’s inferior to others. Don’t look down on yourself and don’t remain silent against the discrimination.”

The backlash from Chinese social media comes as controversy surrounding the flight continues to unfold. Since the video went viral, United CEO Oscar Munoz responded in an email obtained by ABC news that he was “upset” by the incident but ultimately blamed the confrontation on the passenger. Munoz also described the doctor as “disruptive and belligerent” in a letter to company employees, leading to further criticism of the company.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has opened an investigation into the incident, reviewing whether United complied with the oversales rule.

“While it is legal for airlines to involuntarily bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” a statement from a DOT spokesperson read.

John Zhou contributed to this report.

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