Controversy over a British royal using his pedigree to sell milk in China has erupted into a race-related scandal after celebrity anchor Piers Morgan mocked the Chinese language on live television.
Peter Phillips, the 42-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth, was initially criticized after he appeared sipping a glass of milk in a commercial by Shanghai-based Bright Food Group, China's second-largest food conglomerate.
In the ad shown on Dragon TV, Phillips boasts of being raised on Jersey milk from the herd at Windsor Castle before savoring the milk in a room that looks like an English aristocratic home with a view over Shanghai.
Piers Morgan, host of the ITV show Good Morning Britain, then fueled accusations of racism when he mocked the language in the ad, leaving his co-host Susanna Reid cringing.
"At the next royal event, can you imagine Christmas at Sandringham is like " 'I'm sorry your majesty, but I only drink yang yank yong ying ming milk,'" he said.
As they aired the ad again, Morgan continued: "OK then " ching chang chong, OK I got it."
Reid reprimanded him: "For god's sake … taking the mick out of languages is rather 1970s."
The row comes amid allegations of "royals for rent," as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known as Harry and Meghan, embark on their new lives in Canada after resigning their royal duties in order to make their own money.
Morgan, who has been one of Meghan Markle's fiercest critics, has interviewed her estranged family members in the US several times and has frequently rejected accusations that racial prejudice triggered the flight of the biracial former actress from the UK.
One of the first people to criticize Morgan was the former England football player John Barnes.
"Just saw @piersmorgan on GMB mocking Chinese people on the way they speak, what are the odds he faces no criticism for it … there's an example for Laurence Fox of white privilege," he tweeted, in reference to recent comments made by singer and actor Laurence Fox criticizing the racism accusations around Markle.
The academic and broadcaster Gregory Lee tweeted: "Piers Morgan and the old ching-chang-chong routine. Of course, this isn't and never has been racist, right? I still expect this in France, I thought it was in the past in the UK. But then … the past is back."
Morgan defended himself saying he was not mocking the Chinese people, only Phillips. But many of the shows viewers took to Twitter calling for him to be sacked.
Phillips has already come under media fire for his commercial ties to Chinese companies. Last year, it emerged that he, his sister Zara Tindell and his aunt, the Duchess of York had forged lucrative ties with the Hong Kong-born venture capitalist Johnny Hon Sei-hoe.
Hon denied he was "buying influence" with the British establishment and rejected suggestions that he had links to the Chinese state.
Tindall, a former Olympic equestrian medal winner, was paid $130,000 a year as a non-executive director of Hon's Global Group between August 2016 and March 2017, according to The Times newspaper. Last summer Phillips attended a dinner to launch the Global Group Premier Racing Club in Hong Kong.
Bright Foods meanwhile is striving to meet the growing demand among Chinese consumers for quality international food. It has made 10 major foreign acquisitions since 2010 as part of a drive to access more international markets.
In the TV ad, Phillips raises the glass of milk and says, "This is what I drink," before the ad ends with a caption that reads: "British royal family member, Peter Phillips."
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