SHANGHAI China said on Thursday it opposes all racial discrimination after state-owned Air China withdrew an in-flight magazine that warned visitors to be careful in parts of London populated by members of ethnic minorities.
China prides itself as a new global superpower but occasional high-profile examples of prejudice towards foreigners, or people from minority groups, illustrate lingering biased attitudes in some quarters.
"Precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people," the state-owned airline's Wings of China magazine said in an article offering advice to visitors to London, according to a photo of the text seen by Reuters.
The advice, in its September edition, triggered an online uproar.
Air China responded by saying it had removed all copies of the magazine from its aircraft and it had asked the publisher to "learn the lesson and avoid similar problems" in future.
Publications on its flights did not represent its views, the airline said in a statement.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing she had noted the flag carrier had made an "initial response" to the article.
"We hope that through its investigation Air China can appropriately handle the relevant issue," Hua said.
"We consistently advocate for and support the equality of all ethnicities without exception and oppose all forms of racial discrimination."
The publisher apologised for hurting Air China with the "inappropriate wording", according to a statement emailed to Reuters by Air China.
The article also drew criticism in Britain.
Member of parliament Virendra Sharma called the magazine "offensive" and asked in a post on twitter that the airline to remove the magazine and apologise.
Sharma represents London's Ealing Southall area, dubbed "Little India", where more than one-third of residents are of Asian origin.
The magazine's advice is the latest example of material published in China deemed insensitive and sparking uproar.
In May, a detergent maker apologised after airing a television advertisement showing a black man being shoved into a washing machine and coming out a fair-skinned Asian.
Public discussion of discrimination is unusual in China, which is dominated by the ethnic Han majority but is home to numerous minority groups as well as a growing influx of foreigners.
Nearly 270,000 people from China visited Britain last year and Air China did get some sympathy.
"Air China is not wrong. You really should take the company's advice for safety concerns. No need to care if it's politically correct," one netizen wrote on the Weibo social media site.
(Reporting by Jackie Cai in SHANGHAI, addtional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by John Ruwitch, Robert Birsel)