David Beckham’s eldest son Brooklyn has provoked a furious backlash among mainland Chinese internet users by posting a “racist” Instagram photo to his 11.6 million followers while on holiday in Venice.
The now-deleted post from the 19-year-old shows Chinese tourists in a gondola as well as in a local supermarket, with the caption “No place like Italy innit”.
The post was liked by his two younger brothers along with more than 100,000 others, according to a report by Chinese news portal Sina.com.cn on Friday.
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Chinese social media users quickly flooded his Instagram page with abusive comments accusing him of “racism” and “insulting China”.
Some told him to “never come to China to fish for money again” and demanded an apology, while others asked why Chinese or Asian-looking tourists were being singled out for criticism.
Beckham was paid £100,000 (US$131,000) to star in an advertisement for the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Huawei in 2016, while landing on the cover of a Vogue China publication in the same year.
The aspiring model has made his Instagram account private as a result of the controversy.
Chinese social media users also took to Weibo to air their grievances, while the hashtag #BrooklynInstagram was viewed nearly 4 million times on the social network.
“Without his dad, who would recognise him? He really has no character,” read one top-rated comment.
“Accurately speaking, it is discrimination against Asians. He’s not Italian himself but a tourist as well. Who’s better than the other?” another user wrote.
People also hurled abuse at the Instagram posts of David Beckham and fashion designer Victoria Beckham, insulting their son and accusing them of bad parenting.
David Beckham earned US$75 million in 2014 according to Forbes, with much of it from multimillion-dollar Chinese endorsement deals. Beckham also makes regular appearances in advertising campaigns based in China, including the Sands Luxury Resort in Macau.
Many Chinese people choose to travel abroad during China’s week-long national holiday starting on October 1.
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Brooklyn Beckham is not the first Western celebrity to offend China’s notoriously sensitive online community.
American model Gigi Hadid formally apologised to Chinese fans in September 2017 after she posted a “racist” Instagram video which showed her squinting her eyes to mimic a biscuit shaped like the Buddha.
She pulled out from walking in that year’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Shanghai, giving no official explanation.