British Columbia

B.C. newspaper's coronavirus headline called out for racial discrimination

The Chinese consul general in Vancouver wants an apology from the Province newspaper after it published a front page headline calling the coronavirus the "China virus."

'Not a time for targeting a particular country or for inviting stigma into society,' says consul general

China's consul general in Vancouver, Tong Xiaoling, speaks with Stephen Quinn at CBC Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The consul general of China in Vancouver is demanding an apology from a local newspaper for publishing a front page headline she says is discriminatory and unprofessional.

On Wednesday, the Province newspaper ran a front page headline that read, "2nd China Virus Case in B.C."

The headline referred to a second case of novel coronavirus reported by health officials in the Metro Vancouver area.

In an interview with the CBC — the first English media outlet with whom she has spoken about this issue — Chinese Consul General Tong Xiaoling questioned why the Province chose to refer to the novel coronavirus as a "China virus," rather than using scientific terminology. 

Tong said the wording carried a "tone of racial discrimination," and called it irresponsible and unprofessional.

"This is a time of international solidarity, international cooperation," she said in an interview with Stephen Quinn, host of The Early Edition

"So it needs the concerted efforts by the international community, by all the countries concerned, to fight against this epidemic. This is not a time for targeting a particular country or for inviting stigma into society."

Watch Chinese Consul General Tong Xiaoling speak about the headline:

'Very, very insensitive': Chinese Consul General Tong Xiaoling on Province headline

3 years ago
Duration 6:18
Tong Xiaoling reacts to a front page headline in The Province newspaper that said "2nd China Virus Case in B.C."

Apology to the Chinese-Canadian community

Harold Munro, editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun and the Province, said referring to the novel coronavirus as the "China virus" was a way to geographically locate the origin of the virus, not to discriminate.

"I have certainly spoken with and heard from many people who felt the words 'China virus' in a headline could encourage racism against the community, and so for that, I do apologize," Munro told Jason D'Souza, guest host of On the Coast

"It was certainly not our intention to do that or to give the virus a new name."

On Feb.5, The Province newspaper published a front page headline that sparked backlash from some in the local Chinese-Canadian community. (CBC)

Asked whether any Chinese-Canadian journalists are a part of his editorial team, Munro said yes, but noted he has not sought feedback from them about the headline in question. 

Munro also said he is "not as interested" in hearing from the Chinese consul general. However, he stressed that he does apologize to the local Chinese-Canadian community for causing any hurt, and that he will not be using those words again in any headlines out of "respect for local sensibilities."

To listen to Chinese Consul General Tong Xiaoling's full interview on The Early Edition, tap:

With files from The Early Edition