The passenger who was forcibly dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight has garnered support from a rather unexpected source: China.
According to CNBC, videos of the incident, which went viral worldwide on Tuesday (Apr 11), triggered outrage on Chinese social media, with some users calling for a boycott of the airline.
A petition with the hashtag #ChineseLivesMatter, and calling for the United States (US) government to investigate the incident, also garnered over 150,000 signatures in just one day, despite the fact that the victim has been identified as Vietnamese-American doctor David Dao.
The confusion stems from a fellow passenger on the flight, Tyler Bridges, telling Washington Post: "He said, more or less, 'I'm being selected because I'm Chinese.'"
The incident has become the top trending topic on microblog Weibo, with some netizens posting photos of them cancelling or cutting up their own United Airlines loyalty cards.
The reaction could have a significant impact on United Airlines, which has already lost about US$800 million (S$1.12 billion) in total value since the incident, according to US website AOL. News aggregator Shanghaiist reported that China is a key international market for the airline, which operates more direct US-China flights than any other air carrier.
Meanwhile, more prominent personalities have also weighed in on the incident. On Weibo, Chinese-born comedian Joe Wong wrote: "Many Chinese who are discriminated against don't speak out for fear of losing face, resulting in the Western media and public not taking discrimination against Asians seriously."
In the video of the incident, Dr Dao was seen being forcibly removed from his seat in the plane by security officers, which eventually left him bleeding. Other passengers could also be heard shouting at the officers to stop.
In a statement, United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz apologised for what had happened, adding: "We take full responsibility and we will work to make it right."
However, the comments only came after an e-mail he had sent to staff, in which Dr Dao was described as "disruptive and belligerent", was made public, attracting torrents of criticism and derision.