China and Denmark in diplomatic spat over coronavirus cartoon in Danish newspaper

The coronavirus outbreak, first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has claimed 170 lives - all in China. As many as 7,919 cases have been reported from around the world. The virus has spread as far as North America, Europe and Australia. France and Germany have reported cases, with Germany being the first European country to report a case of human-to-human transmission. At a time when global co-ordination in order to contain the disease is required, a "sarcastic" cartoon published in a Danish newspaper has led to a diplomatic spat between China and Denmark.

Coronavirus cartoon

What is the cartoon about?

The cartoon, published in the Jyllands-Posten, cartoonist Niels Bo Bojesen replaced the five golden stars on the Chinese flag with an image of the deadly coronavirus.

The Chinese embassy in Denmark called the cartoon "an insult to China" that "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people". It asked for the newspaper and the cartoonist to "publicly apologize to the Chinese people" as it crossed the "ethical boundary of free speech".

Both the newspaper and the cartoonist have refused to apologize. Defending the cartoon, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reminded China that "we have freedom of expression in Denmark - also to draw", the BBC reported.

Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen
Wikimedia Commons

Most of the cases in China have been reported from Hubei province and its capital Wuhan. To prevent the virus from spreading, China has put several of its cities under a complete lock-down, imposed widespread travel restrictions and issued advisories against public assembly.

Though cases have been reported in Europe, no case has emerged in Scandinavian countries.

Jyllands-Posten's chief editor Jacob Nybroe has insisted that the cartoon was not meant for mocking at the situation. "We cannot apologize for something we don't think is wrong. We have no intention of being demeaning or to mock, nor do we think that the drawing does. As far as I can see, this here is about different forms of cultural understanding," Nybroe said.

In 2005, a Prophet Mohammed cartoon published in the same newspaper, angered many Muslims, leading to attacks on Danish embassies and Arab countries boycotting Danish goods.

Related topics : Coronavirus