- Commercial has been criticized for being racist
- It shows a black man undergoing a wash and transforming into a Chinese man
(CNN)A Chinese firm is apologizing after its racist ad went viral.
The laundry detergent advertisement depicts a light-skinned Chinese woman throwing a black man covered in paint into a washing machine after a bit of flirting. After undergoing a wash, the man emerges as a light-skinned, clean Chinese man.
Qiaobi, the company behind the ad, issued an apology -- but said the international media is exaggerating the reaction.
"[Due to] the harm that has been caused to members of the ethnic African communities as a result of the advertisement's circulation and the over-dramatization by the public opinion, we hereby express our apology and sincerely hope that the internet users as well as media will not over-analyze," the company said in a statement. "We strongly oppose and condemn racial discrimination."
The company also said it has removed traces of the ad online and hopes "that internet users and media will not continue to circulate it."
Since being posted on YouTube by an independent person Thursday, the ad has nearly 7 million views.
Stigma and stereotypes
The ad seemingly rips off a similar, and also offensive, Italian advert, in which a slim Italian man is washed with "color" detergent and emerges a muscular black man with the slogan "Color is better."
This wouldn't be the first time an ad in China has been accused of racial insensitivity. There was considerable criticism online after the Chinese posters for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" seemed to downplay black actor -- and co-lead -- John Boyega.
While a large number of Africans live in China, particularly in southern Guangdong province, many have complained of discrimination and prejudice from locals due in part to a widespread stigma against dark skin.