University professor calls for social media users to 'speak up' against hate speech on Chinese message board

A Chinese university professor has called for social media users to "speak up" against racist comments made on message board Skykiwi.

The platform is self-described as the "most influential Chinese media" in New Zealand but has recently been criticised for xenophobic, homophobic and racist comments posted by its members.

Associate Professor of International Business at Victoria University Wellington Hongzhi Gao said he had heard stories about hateful comments posted on Skykiwi and was "not surprised".

"This particular social media site has given me the impression that it can be controversial from time to time," he told Newshub.

"If there is hate speech on the platform then other users should push back strongly and say this is not appropriate.

"They need to speak up."

News of the hateful language on Skykiwi was exposed on a Reddit thread.

One Reddit user said of Skykiwi: "It's a surprisingly well kept secret even though they hardly try to hide it... A lot of Chinese have poor views of anyone who's not Chinese."

Another person commented: "I feel if kiwis knew they would be shocked."

Their concerns were regarding Skykiwi users expressing hateful views about tragedies including the White Island eruption, Australian bushfires and March 15 shooting, along with numerous other comments denegrating Indians.

One Skykiwi user wrote: "People are happily sitting on a cruise ship and going out to play. As a result, they are buried on a desert island...What else do you want? Haha."

"Australia is dead...Burn it, Australia!" another user posted.

"Muslims killed, Muslims are terrible," a member commented on the message board.

A Skykiwi user makes an insensitive comment about the 2019 White Island tragedy.
A Skykiwi user makes an insensitive comment about the 2019 White Island tragedy.

Professor Gao said that hate speech was often "ignored and tolerated" if it did not directly harm people within the message board forum.

"Chinese people have a strong in-group culture so they are only concerned about what people in their social circles accept and what society thinks is secondary," he said.

But Massey University Communications School Associate Professor Henry Chung said Gao's statement may only apply to a "very small amount of Chinese people living in New Zealand".

"In the end they all want to be viewed as a good citizen in their new home," Chung told Newshub, adding that Chinese immigrants "are not here to seek trouble".

"It may be only a small number of new arrivals who do not follow the rules," he said.

Gao encouraged social media users to stand up to hateful comments.

"There is a lack of users challenging the comments, people need to push back against the in-group mentality which is very strong," he said.

"You need to make clear that something is not acceptable when it's against social norms in New Zealand and probably against the law."

Gao said Skykiwi should censor hateful comments posted on the forum.

"The platform needs to take responsibility for it and be made aware so they can intervene," he told Newshub.

"It should not allow hate, racism or derogatory comments."

A Skykiwi representative said in a statement that they monitor users' comments according to the regulations of the forum and take necessary measures if needed. 

"With respect to the Skykiwi forum, we have published terms and conditions which all users should obey.

"We monitor the users' comments according to the regulations of Skykiwi forum and make necessary measures if needed. If any user find comments which are against the regulations, it is encouraged if he/she could report to us."

What can and cannot be published on social media in New Zealand is dictated by multiple laws such as the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Crimes Act and the Human Rights Act.