The Asian superpower has demanded a public apology over the publication of the satirical depiction of its flag by newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the country’s embassy to Denmark wrote in a press statement.
In the statement, the embassy writes that the drawing is “an insult to China” and that it “hurts the feelings of the Chinese people”.
“The current outbreak of a new coronavirus has cost 81 precious lives in China. At the same time as the Chinese government and the Chinese people are making every effort to combat this unusual and urgent health threat, Jyllands-Posten has published a ‘satirical drawing’ by Niels Bo Bojesen which is an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people,” the embassy wrote according to a translation by Politiken.
“Lacking any form of sympathy or empathy, (the cartoon) has transcended the lower boundaries of civilized society and the ethical boundary of freedom of expression, and insults human conscience,” the statement continues.
“We express our strong indignation and demand that Jyllands-Posten and Niels Bo Bojesen repent their mistake and publicly apologize to the Chinese people,” it concludes.
Bojesen’s drawing depicts each of the five yellow stars of the Chinese flag as a coronavirus.
The newspaper’s managing editor said the cartoon was not intended as an insult.
“The drawing did not intend to mock or ridicule China,” Jyllands-Posten managing editor Jacob Nybroe told broadcaster TV2.
“Drawing a flag and illustrating the coronavirus very quickly illustrates that they [China, ed.] are battling a virus. That’s it,” he added.
Coronavirus has so far killed over 100 people in China, with the death toll now at 106, Chinese authorities said on Tuesday.
The total number of confirmed infections across China is over 4,000.
Cases of the virus have also been confirmed in other countries, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United States, France and Australia.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Denmark, CCCD, also expressed criticism of the cartoon.
“We respect the freedom of speech and, in particular, the personal freedom to express one's attitude, interpretation and attitude,” CCCD general secretary John Liu said in a press statement.
“However, we find that cartoonist Niels Bo Bojesen lacks manners and personal qualities such as compassion and sympathy. The drawing of the coronavirus on the Chinese flag expresses only mockery, ridicule and derision of the Chinese people who right now need the care and support of the outside world,” Liu said.
Jyllands-Posten, a centre-right daily, is the newspaper which published the infamous Muhammad cartoons in 2005, with broad-reaching consequences including a foiled terror plot against the publication, Danish flags being burned in a number of Muslim countries and an impact on the country’s exports.