The Chinese government has demanded an apology from Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for publishing a cartoon that replaces the Five Stars of China displayed on the ChiCom flag with drawings of the Chinavirus (COVID-19). Danish artist Niels Bo Bojesen created the image titled “Coronavirus” and the paper published it last Monday.
“Without any sympathy and empathy, it has crossed the bottom line of civilized society and the ethical boundary of free speech and offends human conscience,” the Chinese embassy in Denmark said the following day.
“We cannot apologize for something that we don’t believe is wrong,” editor-in-chief Jacob Nybroe said without sympathy or empathy. He explained that there was no offense to the Chinese intended and said, “as far as I can see, there are two different types of cultural understanding here.”
The National Flag of the People’s Republic of China has the following cultural symbolism: the large yellow star in the upper left corner of the flag to represent the Communist Party, and four smaller yellow stars to its right to represent the “four occupations” of the Chinese people which Mao Zedong defined as the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. Some claim that the stars represent the five largest Chinese ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Zhuangs, Hui Chinese, Manchus and Uyghurs.
Cartoonists in Denmark might not be fully cognisant of the class and ethnic differences in the Middle Kingdom but as Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said freedom of expression is very important to the Danes. “We have a very, very strong tradition in Denmark not only for freedom of expression, but also for satirical drawings, and we will have that in the future as well,” Frederiksen said. “It is a well-known Danish position, and we will not change that.”
Brave words from the PM in the face of Chinese indignation but missing a very important opportunity to express the cultural understanding of Western Civilization. In the West it is considered irresponsible to silently allow a deadly pathogen to fester and grow within national borders and then release infected people into other countries around the world. It is considered “bad form” to launch a global pandemic on the people of the earth and a little satirical ribbing is the least any nation should expect in response to catastrophic failure.