“Chings”, “disgusting”, “freaks”, death threats,– the South African Chinese community was on the receiving end of some rather unsettling remarks on social media recently while celebrating their biggest annual holiday, Chinese New Year.
The community has lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission, which has confirmed it has received a spike in race-related complaints involving social media platforms.
This week it held a two-day hearing to discuss how to fix the racism situation, and the possibility of a consolidate, multi-faceted approach.
“Racism is still a serious concern in South Africa and the commission recognises this, as the majority of complaints we received based on statistics from our previous financial year illustrates this,” said Gushwell Brooks of the South African Human Rights Commission.
The commission does not identify social media as a specific category to receive human rights complaints but it is increasingly being cited as a “location” where race-based equality complaints occur.
However, Brooks said this is not representative of the whole of South Africa.
“There are only 12 million Facebook users out of a population of 55 million South Africans. These social media users also have a presence on social media platforms and thus do not account for all or most South Africans.”
He said social media activity that garnered much public and media attention should not be seen as reflective of the entire South African population.
Emma Sadleir, a media law consultant said:
“Racism has always existed. But I think it used to be confined to people’s private lounges and private dining room tables. Now that we treat social media as our personal publishing platform, this content now is being published and people find out about it and call each other out much more quickly.”
South Africans have been very reactive on social media regarding racist incidents online but some racial groups tend to get more attention than others. Recently an outbreak of hate was directed at the Chinese community in South Africa.
Sadleir said: “I think we’re pretty good about knowing we can’t be racist against black people, white people and Indian people but the Chinese community has been slow to assert their rights. And they are as South African as the rest of us.”
Out of the 749 complaints the commission has received regarding infringements to the right to equality, 505 were race-based in this past financial year.
“I think to a lot of us it feels that there’s a lot more racism but I don’t think that there is. I think that people are being caught more,” she said.
Brooks maintained that this was a collective responsibility.
“Spikes of racist interactions via social media are a clear indicator that much work needs to be done by all sectors of society including government, civil society and the private sector."
These are a sample of unedited comments from the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary, Carte Blanche and The Chinese
New Year Facebook pages, compiled by The Chinese Association (Gauteng):
Tracey Lee “They are the most despicable things on this planet!! I hate the chings!!!”
Melissa Riback “I’m disgusted at your fireworks display … may your new year bring to you all the horror and death…”
Ryan van der Walt “I think we should start killing their children for cure for the common babalaas!”
David Clive Horne “Personaly I say wipe them out – I’d be the first to be there”
Henda Peiser “There are no more disgusting humans than Chinese people. I wish they all just die. Every single one. I hate them and I will never change my mind”.
Lana Berger “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!”
Cynthia Maherry Le Roux “…Can we not stop these slant eyed freaks from coming into the country?!”
Jo du Plessis “These Chinese need to be banned from the country!”
Mariette Vdlinde de Klerk “We need to get rid of chinese in sa ..they not welcome..they steal our economy. .dogs. Rhinos and now donkeys.”
Alice Pretorius “I agree, I also hate them and get so upset when people bragg with their China Mall junk bargains. I refuse to support them, they are not human…”
Brett Parish “F*ck the Chinese they are raping this continent.”
Joy Termorshuizen “Vile, barbaric people. Is there a living thing left in China ?”
Hennie van Jaarsveld “think trump must leave that wall and blow up china” – Compiled by The Chinese Association (Gauteng)