An investigation by the BBC has exposed racist and slavery activities ongoing in China for many years. What was perhaps most shocking was the fact that videos of these activities have been trending on social media across China for many years.
Runako Celina and Henry Mhango, investigative reporters from Africa took a long journey into the sophisticated Chinese media industry after coming across a video in February 2020. At the time they saw the video, it has amassed millions of views on social media across China, with Chinese citizens dropping funny comments and emojis.
In the humiliating video, a group of African children is being instructed, by a voice off-camera, to chant phrases in Chinese. The kids repeat the words with smiles and enthusiasm — but they don't understand that what they're being told to say was “I am a black monster, and my IQ is low."
Hoping to find more insight into the video and others like it that were making waves in China, the investigative journalists uncovered more.
Their discovery exposed an organized industry that exploited, abused, and generated millions of dollars from enslaved African children. What made the discovery even more shocking is the revelation that these ungodly activities were backed by the Chinese media.
The videos, including racist content, were for sale on Chinese websites and social media. The journalists succeeded in confronting one of the top prolific Chinese video producers who has used very young children from rural Malawi to make and sell thousands of videos.
Both the children and the parents were completely unaware of the meaning of the phrases the children echoed in the videos. They were also unaware that these videos were auctioned on popular Chinese blogs and websites, resulting in millions of dollars in revenue.
Ghanaian vlogger Wode Maya made a scalding denunciation of the clip on his platform, which is one of the most popular YouTube channels in Africa.
But no one has ever answered the crucial questions: Why was this filmed? Where was it shot? Who made it? And why has no one been held accountable?
Runako Celina, who studied and worked in China for several years, had experienced first-hand the pervasive racism that is directed at black people in the country. Outraged by the video, and after identifying the true intentions, she decided to uncover the shameful activities of racism, exploitation, and slavery in the country.
In China, it has become popular to send personalized greeting videos via social media and messaging apps using African children. These videos range in price between $10 and $70 US dollars.
After analyzing hundreds of similar videos and cross-referencing them against satellite imagery from Google Earth, Runako, and the BBC Africa Eye/BBC Eye team were able to locate exactly where the ‘Low IQ’ clip was shot: a village on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.
Runako was joined by Malawian investigative journalist Henry Mhango — and together they began tracking the digital and on-the-ground footprints of a Chinese filmmaker they suspected of making the ‘low IQ’ video. They were assisted by a Chinese journalist who, using undercover filming, recorded the man expressing a series of shockingly racist opinions about Malawians and black people in general.
The reporters also meet some of the families involved in the filmmaker’s activities and examine how cultural misunderstandings, rural poverty, and racist exploitation underpin the video-making industry he belongs to. The grandmother of a child featured in the ‘low IQ’ video told the BBC that the Chinese producer was “profiting from the poor.”
In a tense conclusion to the investigation, Runako and Henry track down the man and confront him about the exploitation of Malawian children and about the racist attitudes he has expressed. As their journey comes to an end, the reporters are encouraged that their investigation has exposed and disrupted one video-making operation — but in villages across the continent, African children are still being exploited for profit.
Credit: BBC, Metro Life