United Airlines is trending on Chinese social media – and not in a good way

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The social media conflagration surrounding United Continental’s forcible removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight has now transcended both borders and language, with the story rocketing to the top trending spot on China’s Weibo social network .

The tag “United Airlines forcibly removes passenger from aircraft” was the top trending item on Weibo on Tuesday. As noon approached the topic had garnered 46m readers and 34,000 comments on the popular Twitter-like platform.

The incident, in which a man is dragged screaming and bleeding from an overbooked flight, had already ignited a social media firestorm on the anglophone Internet. But it found fresh kindling in China after a comment from another passenger was translated into Chinese.

Speaking to The Washington Post, fellow passenger Tyler Bridges said of the man removed from the aircraft:

“He said, more or less, ‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese.’”

That quote, along with images of the passenger’s bloodied face, was being spread far and wide online in Mandarin on Tuesday morning in Asia.

Among the most popular comments were those of Joe Wong, a prominent Chinese-born comedian who voiced approval for the passenger’s complaint.

“Many Chinese people feel they’ve been subject to discrimination, but [fear of losing] face prevents them from speaking out,” Mr Wong wrote, “which leads to mainstream media in the West and the public not taking discrimination against Asians seriously.”

United, which uses the slogan “Fly the friendly skies”, has often billed itself as the the top US carrier to China, and offers direct flights from the US to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi’an.

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