The acting mayor of southeast Yunnan's Wenshan City issued a public apology over the weekend after making insensitive remarks about the Miao people (苗族). Gong Qing (龚卿) has been under fire, both online and in public, following comments he made at a government meeting where he called Miao culture "horrible" and characterized by "witchcraft".
At first, Gong appeared unwilling to retract his utterances, saying instead he had "merely been giving suggestions". He relented and expressed his regret via the Wenshan government's official WeChat account on Sunday, November 6 in the face of mounting pressure. His statement, which may do little to quell anger in the Miao community, reads in part:
Though I did not mean to insult or discriminate against the Miao people, I did use inappropriate language and examples that have hurt their feelings. I am deeply sorry for this and owe my sincere apology to the Miao ethnic group.
Gong came under fire following an October 26 meeting held to finalize plans for a Miao-themed development project called the Wenshan Miao Nationality Historical Culture Zone (文山苗族历史文化园区). At the conference, Gong reportedly said, "The witchcraft culture of the Miao is horrible". He then went on to assert that women of the ethnic minority use sorcery to trick men into marriage, ending by asking, "Why should we promote this kind of culture?"
Public reaction was predictably swift and outraged, as the prefecture of Wenshan is 14 percent Miao. Nearly 500,000 Miao people live in Wenshan City, with nine million others spread across the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan and Sichuan. Social media erupted when word of Gong's comments was first made public, with people across the country calling for an ethics investigation, as well as his removal from office.
It remains unclear if Gong will face anything other than public humiliation after issuing his apology. A hastily organized government 'investigation' found his comments, according to China Daily, "offended the Miao community", but no further disciplinary action has yet been taken.