Chinese newspaper Global Times has called for an apology from the ABC over a “racist” Horrible Histories episode about ancient China Empress Wu Zetian.
The ABC children’s show implied rats, insects, jellyfish and hair are part of everyday Chinese cuisine.
Global Times claimed the Horrible Histories episode “drawn outrage and condemnation from Chinese-Australians” and demanded an apology.
The episode showed an actress dressed up as ancient China Empress Wu Zetian eating insects, rats, jellyfish and hair, while inviting two modern visitors (the program’s hosts), to join her.
The visitors look less than pleased with the meal, which is when the Empress said it was “perfectly normal” to eat insects in China in the Tang Dynasty.
There was also outrage over a white actress playing an Asian character.
However, a spokesperson for the ABC said the actress playing the Empress, Sophie Wu, is British-born but with Chinese heritage.
The ABC also said the complaints will be considered by ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs.
The episode isn’t actually a new episode, but rather a recently aired re-run from the sixth season of Horrible Histoires first aired five years ago.
An online petition has been launched by Chinese-Australians who have warned the episode could cause Chinese children to be bullied at school.
The Global Times spoke to the Australian Studies Center of East China Normal University professor and director Chen Hong, who said the timing of the program was particularly poor.
“The program was also aired at the moment when some Western politicians constantly attacked China for COVID-19 outbreaks, launching smear campaign against the Chinese culture especially the food culture, which is indeed seen as malicious and offensive.”
A Chinese student living in Australia told the Global Times the community needed an apology.
“Hopefully ABC and CBBC can prove that they are really against racial discrimination, and not just another biased Westerners playing with double standards,” they said.