Chinese tourists sing anthem in protest at Bangkok flight delay

State news agency accuses passengers accused of humiliating country

Tourists in Bangkok: a growing number of Chinese are visiting Thailand. There have been concerns about the potential damage that some tourists are doing to China’s image abroad. Photograph: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Lengthy flight delays in China can bring out the worst in people, with violent reactions to news of cancellations a regular occurrence. But a crowd of Chinese tourists stuck in Bangkok for 10 hours chose a novel way to vent their anger: singing their national anthem.

Their flight had been scheduled to take off from Don Mueang International Airport at 5pm on Friday but was delayed until 3am the next day, according to the Shanghai-based news portal

The tourists demanded thousands of yuan in compensation and an apology, then changed tack.

A mobile phone video of the emotional tourists singing the anthem went viral in China, although it has to be said it is not a particularly expert rendition.


"They were scheduled to take a flight by Orient Thai Airlines, but the fight was delayed and the tourists were quite discontented," an airport worker told Thepaper. "Thirty three of the passengers refused to leave the departure hall after the others boarded."

Their singing provoked an angry reaction in official channels. The state news agency Xinhua said the tourists were humiliating their country, and the row has tapped into growing embarrassment in China about the behaviour of some of its citizens overseas.

“People humiliate not only themselves by singing the national anthem when dealing with disputes abroad . . . they also humiliate the country they are associated with,” ran an editorial on Xinhua.

The tourists were among a growing number of Chinese travelling to Thailand, with visitor numbers up 140 in the first half othe year.

Their behaviour was not the first incident of passengers reacting angrily to travel dispruption this year. At Kunming Changshui International Airport in southwestern China in January, angry passengers opened emergency doors after their flight was stuck on the tarmac for hours.

In June, there were remarkable scenes at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport where delays and cancellations because of a typhoon sent passengers on a rampage, throwing food and wheelchairs, and damaging computers.

The following month, seven cabin crew on a Hong Kong Airlines flight were attacked by six passengers and taken to hospital after the flight was delayed by eight and a half hours.

In April, the China National Tourism Administration announced a "blacklist" of travellers who behave inappropriately or illegally, or incredibly annoyingly, abroad.

Ge Lei with China Youth Travel Service told China Radio International that more needs to be done to teach Chinese travelers to behave in a more civilised manner.

“As a matter of fact many of us have yet to learn the right way to communicate with a different world. I think while traveling abroad, one must act like a guest visiting your host and learn to respect the basic rules, even if those rules might be hard to accept for many back in China,” said Ge.

In a separate incident, the Hong Kong-Canadian film star and musician Edison Chen, whose career has been stalled for the past seven years after photos of his sexual exploits with some of Hong Kong's most famous actresses were leaked online, got into a row with a queue-jumper at Shanghai's Hongqiao airport.

According to Thepaper, he threw the queue-jumper’s ID card away, and the two men were briefly taken into custody. Chen’s decision to stop the man jumping ahead of him was warmly applauded online.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing