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Outrage in Malawi Over Racist Child Videos

Malawi children and Chinese national Lu Ke are seen in these screen shots taken from a BBC investigative program.
Malawi children and Chinese national Lu Ke are seen in these screen shots taken from a BBC investigative program.

A BBC investigation found that a Chinese man paid African children to sing and speak Mandarin in disturbing videos that he sold online.

Human rights organizations in Malawi have called on authorities to quickly locate and deport a Chinese man who was making and distributing child exploitation videos.

A BBC investigation revealed Lu Ke was recording hundreds of videos every day and selling them to a Chinese website for up to $70 each. The children in the films were paid around a half-dollar each.

Lu Ke taught the children phrases in Mandarin in which they praised Chinese people, made fun of poverty and chanted racist epithets saying they are "a black monster" and that their "IQ is low."

Sylvester Namiwa, executive director for the Center for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives in Malawi, said these videos are an insult not only to Malawians but also to Black people across the globe.

"We have also extended our call to [the] Chinese embassy to make a public apology to all people of Malawi and the Black community in the world," Namiwa said. "Failure to do so, we will be forced to mobilize Malawians to stage endless peaceful demonstrations."

The Chinese embassy in Malawi has condemned the contents of the videos, saying it will work with the Malawian government to ensure the matter is properly addressed.

In the statement on its official social media platforms, the Chinese government further said it has noted the videos were shot in 2020 and that China has in recent years been cracking down on such unlawful online acts.

But Namiwa said the statement is distasteful.

"It is like they want to create an impression that since this thing was done in 2020, then there is no need to worry," he said. "We are telling them if ... it was filmed in 1906, we should have asked them to apologize no matter what. What we want is action, not the rhetoric."

Comfort Mankhwazi, president of the University of Malawi Child Rights Legal Clinic under the Faculty of Law, said her organization will hold street protests next week and present a petition to the Chinese embassy in the capital Lilongwe.

"One of the things we are going to highlight is that money was made at the expense of these children's humiliation and maybe for ignorance to what they were actually doing," she said. "We think that it's only fair if these children were compensated for that because in a sense, it's them that earns that money."

In the meantime, Mankhwazi is appealing to the governments of Malawi and China to help track down the culprit, who is believed to have left the country.