The above image is a screenshot of a post accompanying an image (as captured above) with a caption claiming that the Chinese ambassador had walked on children as a carpet upon arrival in Kiribati. The image has been making the rounds on social media platforms especially Facebook.
The picture showing China’s ambassador to Kiribati Tang Songgen walking on a group of people as a carpet soon after landing on the island nation has caused an uproar on social media. Many are calling it outright racism, human right abuse and China’s modern colonisation of developing countries.
Kiribati is a small island country in the Central Pacific Ocean, consisting of 33 islands of which only 20 are inhabited. Its geostrategic location has proved to be of great importance with some of the most developed countries in the world such as China going on a charm offensive.
Kiribati’s new president has embraced China after cutting off ties with Taiwan, gaining support from Beijing in return. Kiribati’s change of tune came just 4 days after Solomon Islands did the same with China gaining more control over the region which hosts the United States Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii.
A reverse search of the picture reveals that it is genuine without any alterations. This article to the Vietnam Times the people lying down were young men and not children as earlier mentioned in the Facebook post.
The story was picked up by major news outlets such as The New York Times and The Guardian. The Guardian article, penned by natives of the island nation, Katerina Teaiwa and Marita Davies, further goes ahead to explain the cultural significance of walking on young men’s backs.
The practice, as reported by the Vietnam Times, is a form of showing respect and is mostly done in weddings and first time visits.
The claim that China’s ambassador to Kiribati walked on children’s backs as a carpet is therefore MISLEADING.