A Chinese man was arrested for child trafficking after a BBC documentary accused him of exploiting children in Malawi for social media notoriety and financial gain.
BBC reporters discovered that Lu Ke was filming children as young as 6 making video greetings mocking and calling themselves the “Chinese equivalent of the N-word.” Lu would pay the children about 50 cents a day, and if they did not listen, he would pinch or whip them, one child said.
“When I made a mistake and when we did something wrong, he would whip us with a stick and give us detention,” said Bright, a 6-year-old boy who starred in several of Lu’s videos.
Lu lived in a Malawian village for several years, paying the children to make the videos popular among Chinese viewers. In one video Lu allegedly made, he instructs the children to say, “I am a Black monster, and my IQ is low.” Runako Celina, one of the journalists who tracked down Lu for the BBC documentary, said the derogatory term used in the video could also be translated to “Black devil.”
Lu was caught on a hidden-camera video admitting that he filmed the footage instructing the children to make the racist message but quickly recanted, telling the journalist who was undercover to delete the message.
“Don’t let Black people see this,” Lu said.
Lu also told the undercover journalist, who pretended to seek advice about the greeting video industry, not to “pity” the children.
Greeting videos featuring Africans are popular on social media among people in China. According to the documentary, the videos sell for between $10 to $70. The IQ video was posted on social media page called Jokes About Black People Club in February 2020. It was met with mixed reviews, but some were outraged and demanded that it be removed. Parents of some of the children in the video said they were not aware of what the Chinese man was doing.
Bright, known by the name Xiao Gulah in the videos, is a poster child for the African greeting videos. Lu made a series of videos featuring Bright when he was younger.
“When I took him away, the man would just come and take him back,” Bright’s mother, Fauiska Banda, said. “It is painful in my heart. We did not see the benefit of it.”
Lu was charged with five counts of child trafficking on July 18 in a magistrates court in the capital Lilongwe, the Malawi Police Service said. Authorities captured him in Zambia last month and extradited him to Malawi.
Celina said Lu’s video underscores the exploitation of poor people in Africa for the entertainment of people in other countries.
“He’d used these kids as props for his own ego as poverty porn as commodities that could be made to sing and dance for profit,” she said.