A regional daily has apologised after its cartoon of a Chinese space craft holding chopsticks was branded racist by some of its readers.
The comic strip, which was published in the Eastern Daily Press last Thursday, depicts staff from the China Space Agency’s control room monitoring a space buggy moving across the moon collecting mineral samples
However, the cartoon’s space rover is holding a pair of chopsticks while its buck-toothed control room staff mispronounce several words.
And the caption below reads: “Uh-oh, tellible setback, comrades! Mineral Collector Unit malfunction! Can’t seem to get a decent glip on lock samples!”
The cartoon, a reference to China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft touching down safely on the lunar surface the weekend before last, prompted an angry reaction from some readers.
Several readers took to the Archant-owned newspaper’s social media sites to voice their discontent with the cartoon.
Joanna Casey wrote: “It is horrifically racist, abominably rude and downright disgusting. I shall not be purchasing again.”
Ben Halliday added: “There is a world of difference between a contextual parody, and printing an image depicting a Chinese man with big teeth using the word “tellible”.
Mark Wernham wrote on Facebook: “There is no place in this region in 2014 for this kind of racist stereotyping parading as comedy. What, exactly, is this a parody of?”
And Derek Williams added: “Yeah, total racism. An apology on your front page is the minimum. For heavens sake grow up.”
Some readers took the paper’s side, however, suggesting that Chinese people would not have been offended by the cartoon.
Marc Coker wrote: “It was stupid to print it, and a bit 1960s sitcom, but on the reverse side if Norfolk had landed on the moon and there was a cartoon with a tractor and some comedy Norfolk dialect would you complain? It wouldn’t bother me.
“I wonder how many Chinese people have complained compared to English people complaining on their behalf.”
Kirk Wills added: “I still don’t get what is racist about this picture and why everybody is so upset. It’s a parody people. Get a grip.”
Following the backlash, EDP assistant editor David Powles posted an apology on the newspaper’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
He wrote: “The cartoon was clearly meant as a parody, much in the same way of many comedies seen on TV, eg; Allo Allo, the Kumar’s at Number 42, Alan Partridge etc etc – where fun is poked at language in different ways.
“However it has clearly struck a nerve with several people and if it has offended anyone, we wish to apologise – that was not our intention.
“We at the EDP pride ourselves in our tradition of supporting the huge range of diverse cultures in Norfolk and hopefully anyone who regularly reads our content knows this. Believe me we are saddened if people are upset in such a way by our work.”
A spokesman for publisher Archant Norfolk added: “We have already apologised in print and online and are sorry that we published the cartoon. It was a misjudgement and we have put procedures in place to make sure that it does not happen again.
“Anyone who knows the Eastern Daily Press realises the support we offer to a huge range of culturally diverse organisations and events. We are proud to be part of a thriving, diverse community and demonstrate that ethos on a daily basis.”