Chinese association lays charges over xenophobic Facebook comments

Johannesburg - Members of The Chinese Association in Gauteng have laid charges against people making xenophobic and racist remarks against Chinese nationals on social media in recent weeks.

"The xenophobia directed at the Chinese community is of great concern, in the face of past tragic xenophobic experiences in our country, directed at other minority communities," the association said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Following legal advice taken to protect the safety and well-being of our Chinese community, criminal charges of crimen injuria have been laid against some of the writers of these offensive comments."

The association said its members had come across the offensive comments on social media following the Chinese New Year celebrations on January 28. Other comments were picked up on the Carte Blanche Facebook page after it aired a report on the trade of donkey skins on January 29, as well as on pages belonging to the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary and the Chinese New Year, the association said.

Human rights commission complaint

Some of the comments included statements such as:

"They are the most despicable things on this planet!!! I hate the chings!!!"

"I'm disgusted at your fireworks display...may your new year bring to you all the horror and death..."

"I think we should start killing their children for cure for the common babalaas..."

"There are no more disgusting humans than the Chinese people. I wish they all just die. Every single one. I hate them and will never change my mind."

"They are the most disgusting things on this earth!!!! I wish they would start wiping themselves out, this earth will be better off without them!"

"Can we not stop these slant eyed freaks from coming into the country?!"

The association said it would also lay a complaint of hate speech with the South African Human Rights Commission. However, it said it remained optimistic that no form of discrimination would be tolerated in South Africa.

'Intense hate speech'

"There is no space for any form of discrimination in South Africa and it is hoped that the aforesaid legal actions will serve to protect the Chinese community in South Africa from further attacks of racism and hatred and will deter others from engaging in such unacceptable and unlawful conduct."

Ming-Cheau Lin, who was born in Taiwan, but who has been living in South Africa since the age of three, told News24 that she had personally tried to contact the administrators behind the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary's Facebook page, asking them to address the racist comments on their page. 

"There's intense hate speech going on against Chinese people on a Karoo Donkey Sanctuary post on Facebook, and many (Asian and non) have kindly asked the admin to address the hate speech.

"It's spewing so much hate. It's a Penny Sparrow situation, but against Chinese people. But because it's 'just Chinese' people, it's considered an over-reaction from the Asian community and again, the community is invisibilised."

She said that when the Asian community was confronted with such hatred, the older generation often tended to tolerate it.

"As the younger and more proudly South African generation, we want change so we can be proudly South African too.

"We, as a whole community, have no idea where to turn for a voice," she said.

New comments 'every five minutes'

On February 1, Karoo Donkey Sanctuary's founder Jonno Sherwin published an anti-hate speech statement on the page.

"KDS would like to state for the record that we neither invite nor condone hate speech of any nature whatsoever on our page.

"Furthermore, we would also like to state for the record that it is by no means our objective to vilify the Chinese as a nation," the statement reads.

Sherwin told News24 that he had received a complaint from Ming-Cheau asking him to address the comments.

He said following this, he amended the terms and conditions on the page on February 6 to lay down what is considered prohibited content. This includes anything unlawful, defamatory, harassing, threatening, abusive, discriminatory, racist, sexist, homophobic, or which constitutes hate speech, he said.

"I also deleted all the comments that are anti-Chinese, but they come up every five minutes and I am not on the page all day," Sherwin said.

Meanwhile, the association has condemned the abuse of animals.

"We are in full support of Carte Blanche for drawing the public's attention to such acts of cruelty and commend the efforts of the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary for everything they are doing in improving the plight of these poor animals. Further, we welcome the prosecution of such perpetrators, whatever their nationality."  

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