Publisher removes story from David Walliams book over 'harmful' Chinese stereotypes

4 October 2021, 16:28 | Updated: 4 October 2021, 16:36

David Walliams at the launch of one of his 'World's Worst Children' books
David Walliams at the launch of one of his 'World's Worst Children' books. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

A David Walliams story about a Chinese boy is to be removed from one of his books following complaints about its “harmful stereotypes” and “misrepresentation” of Chinese culture.

Walliams’ story, Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong, will not feature in future editions of The World’s Worst Children, which was originally published in 2016. A new character and story will replace "total and utter swot" Brian, with the next edition to be published in March.

It comes after Georgie Ma, a podcaster, met with publisher HarperCollins Children to discuss her concerns having criticised the story on social media earlier this year.

Following the publisher's decision to drop the story, Ma told The Bookseller: “'Wong' and 'wrong' are two words that are commonly used in playgrounds to pick on someone if their surname is Wong.

'Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong' appeared in 'The World's Worst Children'
'Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong' appeared in 'The World's Worst Children'. Picture: Alamy

“Even just the way Brian has been illustrated. He wears glasses, he looks like a nerd, he’s got small eyes... they're all harmful stereotypes.”

Ma added she didn’t want her toddler daughter “being absorbed in these stories where Chinese culture is misrepresented”.

In a statement, HarperCollins Children said: “In consultation with our author and illustrator we can confirm that a new story will be written to replace Brian Wong in future editions of The World's Worst Children.

"The update will be scheduled at the next reprint as part of an ongoing commitment to regularly reviewing content.

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Walliams has written three The World's Worst Children books.

Last year, he and his Little Britain co-star Matt Lucas apologised after criticism over their use of blackface make-up in some sketches on the show.

In the series, Walliams sported black make-up and a large afro wig to play the overweight black woman Desiree DeVere.

The programme was removed from Netflix, BBC iPlayer and BritBox in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests around the world following the death of George Floyd in the US.