United passenger’s removal sparks outrage in China

This Sunday, April 9, 2017, image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows a passenger who was removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago. Video of police officers dragging the passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight sparked an uproar Monday on social media, and a spokesman for the airline insisted that employees had no choice but to contact authorities to remove the man. (Audra D. Bridges via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — Images of a bloodied man being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago drew widespread condemnation in China, where state media fueled the public’s anger with reports that noted the unidentified victim was an “Asian passenger.”

Video of the violent incident posted on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo had been viewed more than 210 million times by late Tuesday. Many responded with outrage over perceived bias against the passenger and some called for a boycott of the U.S.-based airline.

“Rubbish!” writer Su Danqing posted on Weibo. “When they were treating this Asian man, they never thought of human rights, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it that way.”

“Damn it! This airline must be boycotted!” said a posting from Liu Bing, a telecommunications company worker.

United does considerable business with Chinese passengers and a consumer boycott could cause it serious pain. United says it operates more nonstop U.S.-China flights to more cities in China than any other airline.

Rowdiness has long been associated with air travel in China, including passengers getting into fights with crew members and a vicious assault last year in which an enraged customer smashed an airline check-in clerk in the head with a brass plaque.

The United incident appeared to feed into such customer frustrations — only this time the tables were turned and the passenger was cast as the victim.

United executives struggled to control the public relations damage.

Airline CEO Oscar Munoz said the unidentified man removed from the Chicago-to-Kentucky flight had become “disruptive and belligerent” after he was asked to leave the plane to make room for several employees of a partner airline who wanted on the flight.

When the man refused, officers from the Chicago Aviation Department came in and first tried to reason with him before pulling him from his seat by force and dragging him away, according to a passenger, Tyler Bridges, whose wife later posted a video of the altercation on Facebook.

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