A judge on Holland's Got Talent has brushed off accusations of racism over a series of digs he made at a contestant. His mockery of the contestant's race was merely the Dutch sense of humour, said Cornelis Heuckeroth.
The judge, who goes under the stage name of Gordon, refused to apologise for mocking singer Xiao Wang's ethnicity during an episode of the show earlier this month.
"I don't feel the need to [apologise]," Heuckeroth told Netherlands Public Broadcasting (NPO) television.
The 45-year-old presenter said his comments were overblown by foreign media and that he did not lose any sleep over it.
A video of the incident uploaded on YouTube by the show's broadcaster RTL went viral after it was reposted on Reddit.
Heuckeroth is seen firing a series of cheap shots at Xiao, a PhD business student with a passion for singing operatic arias.
"Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?" Heuckeroth sneered at Xiao.
"Surplise. Honestly, this is the best Chinese I've had in weeks. And it's not a takeaway," he added after the contestant's performance.
Heuckeroth said that jokes stereotyping Chinese with food were normal in the Netherlands and were perceived as racist only in the US and China because they had a history of racism issues.
"I'm glad I live in the Netherlands, where I can say this sort of things for freedom of speech is highly regarded," Heuckeroth said.
"Up to 30 years ago in the US a black man could not sit on a white bus and the Ku Klux Klan is still accepted. They have a problem with racism and China too."
Heuckeroth claimed Xiao did not feel offended by his remarks. "If he felt discriminated or offended I would have apologised but that has not been the case," he said.
Representatives of several Asian communities in the Netherlands wrote an open letter to Heuckeroth and RTL demanding an apology.
"Racist jokes are very offensive to the recipient," the letter signed by Bianca Kuijperm coordinator of the CinemAsia Film Festival, Irene Xu from the Chinese Political Integration and Participation Fund (CPIPF) and Hong Tong Wu from the Netherland's China Radio & TV read.
"They suggest that the receiver is inferior simply for his ethnic origin."
Avinash Sampath, the Amsterdam-based activist who set up the campaign, said he hoped that it would raise public awareness on racist jokes.
"Racism isn't a laughing matter and this shouldn't be swept under the carpet of - 'Oh! This is how we crack jokes in Holland,' he said.
IBTimes UK contacted Fremantle Media, which owns the "Got Talent" franchise, for a comment but received no reply.