Argentina’s Kirchner sparks row after China accent gibes

February 5, 2015 10:05 am
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Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner (C) waves as Chinese President Xi Jinping accompanies her during the welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on February 4, 2015/AFP
Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner (C) waves as Chinese President Xi Jinping accompanies her during the welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on February 4, 2015/AFP

, BEIJING, China, Feb 5 – Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner was assailed at home and abroad Thursday after an undiplomatic tweet during a state visit to China, in which she seemingly poked fun at Asian difficulties pronouncing the letters L and R.

Kirchner, on a mission to China to expand trade and political ties, tweeted in Spanish on the number of people attending one of her events in Beijing, asking: “Are they all with La Campola?”

She was referring to La Campora, her party’s youth organisation, led by her son.

“Or, are they only there for the lice (rice) and petloleum (petroleum)?” she added.

It was a play on a political joke from home: Kirchner’s detractors say that her supporters only attend party events so they can get a free sandwich and a soda.

After the tweets triggered criticism and accusations of racism, she followed up with another saying: “Sorry. You know what? There is too, too much craziness and absurdity, only humour can get you through it.”

The Argentine president is already under the spotlight at home after the suspicious death of a prosecutor.

Her tweet was prominently covered in Argentine and international media, with one reader of the Buenos Aires daily La Nacion describing her comment as more teenage than presidential, adding: “It’s really unpleasant to see how our president behaves.” READ: Argentine prosecutor who accused Kirchner found dead.

Posters on Chinese social media sites were similarly disdainful, with some pointing out that Kirchner was referring to more of a Japanese tendency than a Chinese one.

“How about you say two sentences in Chinese so I can hear your pronunciation?” asked one.

Another user on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service, added: “Amazing she has the courage to beg for investment while at the same time ridiculing Chinese people.”

But China’s government-run news outlets carried no mention of the gaffe or commented on its diplomatic implications, and foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei declined to comment on it Thursday.

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