A court in Malawi has ordered a Chinese national to leave the country in seven days after being found guilty of racial discrimination against children.
The court had sentenced 26-year-old Lu Ke to one year in prison for selling exploitative videos of Malawian children. State lawyers say Lu Ke has since paid his victims compensation, but Malawian child rights campaigners say the punishment is not enough.
The sentence comes after prosecutors amended some of the charges. Lu Ke, also known as Susu, was initially charged with child trafficking, illegal use of the internet and procurement of children for use of entertainment, among other charges.
Lu Ke denied those charges, saying the aim of the videos was to help spread Chinese culture to the local community.
State lawyer Dzikondianthu Malunda said: "And after all that was concluded is when some charges were withdrawn and he agreed to plead guilty to the charges and also to pay sums of money as compensation to those children by his criminal acts."
Malunda also said the compensation of 16 million kwatcha, or $16,000, that Lu Ke paid was meant for general community benefits, such as drilling a well in case there is none.
In his ruling, Principal Resident Magistrate Rodrick Michongwe said Lu Ke had already served the 12-month sentence during the time he was remanded in prison since June 2022.
"It is part of the agreement that a convict will leave the country within seven days and that he will not return to Malawi again," Malunda said.
Police arrested Lu Ke last year following his extradition from Zambia, where he fled after a British Broadcasting Corporation investigation reported he was recording young villagers in central Malawi and making them say racist things about themselves in Mandarin.
In one video, children, some as young as 9, were heard saying in Mandarin that they are a "black monster" and have a "low IQ."
The BBC reported Lu Ke was selling the videos at up to $70 apiece to a Chinese website. The children in the videos were paid about a half-dollar each.
The news sparked outrage in Malawi, prompting some rights organizations to hold street protests and present a petition to the Chinese Embassy in the capital of Lilongwe. In the petition, protesters asked the Chinese government to compensate the children in the videos for being fooled to say words in a foreign language they could not understand.
Comfort Mankhwazi, the former president of the University of Malawi Child Rights Legal Clinic, which led the protests, told VOA via a messaging app that the sentencing has caught the clinic off guard. She said they need to see the official charge sheet.
"We need to interrogate how the 16 million Kwacha came about. And the criteria used to arrive at such amount and why it was considered adequate and how and if all the children have been identified and how the children themselves feel about this settlement," Mankhwazi said.
Rights campaigner Mathews Kajani, who led a protest of Lu Ke's conduct last year, said the sentence given to Lu Ke is disappointing.
"He exploited Malawian children, he demeaned not only children themselves but the Black race, which now becomes a racism issue," Kajani said. "It also became a sexual exploitation issue if you look at some pictures of Susu holding young girls and all that. So, we consider this a very serious issue and for him to be given a 12-month sentence doesn't make any sense to us."
Lu Ke's lawyer did not respond to a text sent by VOA seeking his comment on the matter.