Viral videos showing a passenger who appears to be of Asian ethnicity dragged off a United Airlines plane by security officers has triggered outrage on social media on China.
The viral video was posted on Facebook by fellow passenger Audra D. Bridges, who told the Associated Press she heard the man "saying that he was being singled out because he's a Chinese man."
The man who was forcibly evicted from his seat has not been identified and has not commented publicly. His identity as ethnic Chinese could not be confirmed. United did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
But on microblog Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, the top trending topic on Tuesday was #United Airlines forcibly removes passenger from airplane#, with most users expressing shock and anger at the video while some called for a boycott of the carrier.
In a post on his verified Weibo account that generated some 50,000 likes in over three hours, Chinese American comedian Joe Wong said the passenger who reportedly said he was selected for being Chinese deserves a "thumbs up" as many Chinese who feel discriminated against don't say it out loud so as not to lose face.
"This results in the Western mainstream media and public to not take discrimination against Asians seriously," he added.
Another Weibo user, Koukou Liang said: "Whether the passenger is Asian or not, this is abominable." Some accounts on Weibo go under other handles, such as User7935599911 who said: "No need to apologize or explain...please sue United Airlines till it collapses. Boycott fully."
Reports said the flight was overbooked and so passengers were selected by United Airlines and asked to take a later flight.
Other users like Chang Xiao from Shanghai, shared personal "horror stories" of flying with United Airlines.
"When I was studying overseas, I flew with this airline and found their flight attendants were horribly rude and impatient. My friend and I thought it was because we were Chinese and this incident proves our feelings were correct. How horrible of them to throw a passenger off board just because he looked Asian. What is happening with the world today?"
Over on Chinese chat app WeChat, users called for a boycott of the airline until official action was taken.
But some users pointed out that the issue was not necessarily about race.
"The United Airlines should pay a price for this. Not only because the person who was removed from the flight is of Chinese descent, anyone should have the right to refuse such unreasonable treatment. This is dignity," said on user.
In a statement posted to Twitter Monday afternoon, United CEO Oscar Munoz said, "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation."
On Monday evening, Munoz said in a letter to employees obtained by CNBC that employees "followed established procedures" when removing a passenger from a plane because it was overbooked, and calling the passenger "disruptive and belligerent."
United Airlines is facing a public relations crisis after a video posted to Facebook Sunday showed three security approaching a man who was already seated, asking him to give up his spot on the plane. After the man refused, he was dragged by his arms and screaming toward the front of the plane.