Just a day after telling critics to lighten up, the Chinese detergent company finally apologized for the racist commercial that provoked uproar online last week.
Many news websites in the United States criticized the commercial as an example of racist attitudes towards black people in China.
“This ad is blatantly racist… It’s also a reminder that attitudes over race and skin color in China can be very bad,” said explainer site Vox.com.
The advertisement for “Qiaobi” shows a black man whistling and winking at a young Chinese woman, who calls him over, puts a detergent packet into his mouth, and stuffs him head-first into a washing machine.
The Chinese woman sits on the cover and then after a while the black man is transformed into a fair-skinned Asian man.
The advertisement has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube in the past 3 days.
“For the harm caused to the African people because of the spread of the advert and the over-amplification by the media, we express our apology,” said Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics in a statement.
The statement added: “We sincerely hope the public and the media will not over-read it.”
The company said it had already stopped airing the commercial and deleted links to it.
Earlier, a spokesman told China’s Global Times newspaper that the issue of racism had not crossed the company’s mind.
He said “the foreign media might be too sensitive about the ad.”
The commercial didn’t attract much attention in China, which has almost no settlement by people of African descent.
It has less than 2,000 views of the same ad on popular video-sharing site Youku.
Bias against dark-skinned people might have stemmed from traditional attitudes prizing white skin.
In recent years, though, the population has grown as China has risen to become the continent’s economic powerhouse.