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Een Chinese blik op de Gordon-rel

GordonIn last week’s Holland’s Got Talent show, judge Cornelis Heuckeroth, whose stage name is Gordon, sparked an outcry over a series of racist jokes he directed at a Chinese participant. When the Chinese contestant walked onto the stage, he asked ‘Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?’ When the contestant finished singing, Gordon made remarks.’ This is the best Chinese I’ve had in weeks and it’s not a take-away.’ He finished with: ‘He looks like a waiter from a Chinese restaurant ‘ in Dutch., the most authoritative Holland-based Chinese network community interviewed the Chinese contestant. Xiao Wang, a PhD student at the University of Groningen, performed La Donna è Mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto. When asked about his own feeling towards the whole issue, he said: ‘I won’t make any comment on it, because I just focused on my performance.’
After the news became heated, Xiao Wang updated his own Facebook page with the sentence ‘A man, no matter who he is or where he comes from, with good ability and kind heart, will win others’ respect and applause.’
In the meantime, is calling for Chinese living in the Netherlands to take the issue seriously. In an announcement posted on the front page of, it reads: ‘We understand and respect the fact that people tend to speak directly and frankly in Dutch culture, but at the same time, we sincerely hope that Dutch people will realize that what Gordon said crossed the line and hurt the feelings of Chinese people.’

The founder of encourages Chinese to speak out and stand up. He believes if there is no sign of protest, these kinds of things could happen more frequently and more severely. is organizing anti-discrimination activities, including seminars to enhance communication between China and the Netherlands, inviting Dutch media, Dutch anti-discrimination group, representatives from government and professors specialized in Chinese culture.
But opinions about the Gordon issue differ among the Chinese community. Subi, a master student in Groningen from the western part of China, says she thinks everyone in the Netherlands has been friendly to her so far. She has never been discriminated against since her arrival in September.
‘Dutch are famous for their big mouth. They dare to say anything’, Jianmang Li, a famous Chinese columnist and critic who has been living in the Netherlands for two decades and is now an official Dutch citizen, updated his blog after the discrimination news came out. ‘Although sometimes their words can be unacceptable, I don’t think they really mean it. Like Gordon, he just thought about those Chinese-related jokes, I don’t think he discriminates against Chinese’, Li wrote, ‘If the Chinese contestant had showed his anger on stage, I believe Gordon would have apologized immediately.’
In fact, many Chinese protestors hold the same beliefs as Li. They don’t regard Gordon as a racist. They believe that he just didn’t realize that what he said on television would trigger such severe reactions. The reason why this time Chinese-Dutch are so outraged is that these so-called jokes are rooted in their daily lives.
On, Canadian journalist Suzanne Ma, who has Chinese heritage, wrote a story about her husband, who is a second-generation Chinese-Dutch. ‘Marc, my husband, grew up in a small city in the south of Holland. He was the only Chinese kid in his class and sometimes, it was rough. Their jokes don’t translate well into English. “What do the Chinese call buttocks? Wang Snee Wang,” the children would taunt. The words literally mean “cheek cut cheek” but apparently to the Dutch, they also sound like a Chinese name. “What is Chinese and hangs on the wall? Witte lijst.” White rice, but rice said with an ‘l’ means frame. They sang a song called Hanky Panky Shanghai while pulling their eyelids to the side. I was outraged when Marc told me these stories. But he simply shrugged and said it was a part of every Chinese kid’s experience growing up in the Netherlands. There were many others like him.’
Suzanne called the second-generation Chinese-Dutch a silent minority who experienced a lot of discrimination in their daily life but never stood up for themselves. But many of them see this moment as a good chance to make a difference, to let their voices be heard. Second-generation Chinese-Dutch Sara Lee started a petition in a world petition platform In her petition, she asked RTL, the broadcasting company of Holland’s Got Talent, to apologize for Gordon’s racist remarks towards Chinese singer Xiao Wang. Until November 27, her petition has gained 4,200 supporters.
The Radio Netherlands Wereldomroep (RNW) interviewed influential activist Nancy Chen. She said jokes about Chinese people’s appearance and characteristics are common things in her and her children’s life in the Netherlands. She doesn’t think this is meant in a racist way, but she believes Dutch media should in part be held responsible for the construction of Chinese stereotypes.
Nancy said the Netherlands is the most unrestrained country, but there is no ultimate freedom. While people are enjoying their rights and freedom, they should also show responsibility. A tolerant society should not allow the existence of verbal violence. Nancy believes if Chinese keep silent, their living atmosphere in the Netherlands might be affected.

Wanchen Wu is een exchange student uit China die dit semester een Minor Journalism aan de Hanzehogeschool volgt.