China demands apology over coronavirus flag cartoon by Danish newspaper

Denmark's Prime Minister has defended the publication of the cartoon.

Matthias Ang | January 29, 2020, 11:59 AM

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Denmark has rebuffed China's demand for an apology over a cartoon showing the coronavirus in place of the five stars on its national flag, Politico reported.

Chinese embassy slams cartoon as an offence to "human conscience"

The cartoon had been published by Danish media Jyllands-Posten on Jan. 27.

In response, the Chinese embassy in Denmark slammed the image as "an insult to China" and an offence to "human conscience".

As per the embassy's statement:

"...Jyllands-Posten published a 'satire drawing' by Niels Bo Bojesen, which is an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people. Without any sympathy and empathy, it has crossed the bottom line of civilised society and the ethical boundary of free speech and offends human conscience."

It further demanded that the media and the cartoonist issue a public apology to the people of China.

Denmark rejects demand for apology

Reuters reported that the paper's editor, Jacob Nybroe, has since stated that they will not apologise for the cartoon however, as it was not their intention to make fun of the situation.

He said,"We cannot apologise for something that we don’t believe is wrong. We have no intention of demeaning or mocking the situation in China and we don’t think the drawing does that.”

Politico highlighted that Denmark's Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, also came to the paper's defence by stating that the country had a "very, very strong tradition" of freedom of expression.

Speaking to Jyllands-Postenshe stated:

"I have nothing more to say but that we have a very, very strong tradition in Denmark not only for freedom of expression, but also for satire drawings, and we will have that in the future as well."

Not the first time Jyllands-Posten has courted outrage

This is not the first time Jyllands-Posten has courted controversy and outrage with its drawings.

Previously in Sep. 2005, the media outlet had published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which stirred outrage across Muslim countries, The Atlantic reported.

This eventually led to protests in Jan. 2006, with the Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon burnt, 139 people left dead amid protests from Nigeria to Pakistan and a minister in India issuing a reward of US$1.1 million for the beheading of one of the Danish cartoonists.

The paper refused to apologise, and its cultural editor at that time, Flemming Rose said that the paper had done the right thing in publishing the cartoons, The Guardian reported.


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Top cover image by Ritzau Scanpix/Ida Marie Odgaard via REUTERS