Two Toronto-based politicians are pressing a Chinese-Canadian doctor to remove a sign on his office door – in Chinese – that refers to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan pneumonia,” complaining the wording could incite anti-Asian hatred.
The English part of the sign, which explained Dr. Kester Kong’s office protocol during the pandemic, referred only to COVID.
The incident raises thorny questions about when citing the coronavirus’s origins constitutes a form of racism, and whether it makes any difference if the audience is Asian itself.
Vincent Ke, a Progressive Conservative member of the provincial legislature with a
to the Chinese government, said Kong may have made an innocent mistake, but it doesn’t matter that the mention of Wuhan was in Chinese.
“No matter the language spoken or written, the term ‘Wuhan pneumonia’ to describe the COVID-19 virus is not just incorrect, it is inflammatory,” a spokesman for the politician said by email. “In fact, many Chinese Canadians feel extremely offended and vulnerable by the term used by Dr. Kong … MPP Ke has confidence that if Dr. Kong learned how divisive and hurtful the term ‘Wuhan pneumonia’ is to the people in our communities, he would remove the sign.”
Ke had earlier posted about the issue in an anti-racism forum on the China-based WeChat social media site, saying that if the physician did not change the notice, he and fellow Tory MPP Aris Babikian would hold a news conference to publicize the issue.
Kong could not be reached for comment.
But Babikian, who represents the Scarborough-Agincourt riding where the doctor’s office is located, said he spoke to the neurologist on Tuesday, and the physician agreed to change the sign.
“This pandemic, it is international, it is worldwide,” the MPP said. “To just try to label it as a pandemic caused by a certain ethnic community and group, it is unfair.”
He said there have been a number of incidents since the pandemic started of harassment against people of Asian descent in his constituency, where he said about 40 per cent of residents are ethnic Chinese. In one recent case caught on video, a Chinese-Canadian senior citizen waiting in line at a take-out restaurant was pushed to the ground by a man behind him, Babikian said.
But a critic of the Beijing regime suggested the sign affair may have more to do with standing up for China in its
for the pandemic than fighting racism.
Anti-Asian bigotry is a real problem in Canada, but most people of Chinese descent don’t mind references to Wuhan and the virus, said Cheuk Kwan, spokesman for the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.
“They don’t see this as a big deal.”
Ke, the member for Don Valley North, seems “over-eager to defend China, rather than being too worried about anti-Asian hate,” he added.
“This is the playbook of Chinese consulates in Canada,” said Kwan. “They are using this anti-Asian hate to rally the troops, (win) the hearts and minds of Chinese Canadians.”
There is little doubt that the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China, with a
concluding it likely originated in bats, passing to humans through another animal. China has also been criticized for
the new pathogen and its seriousness in the outbreak’s early days, allowing it to spread widely.
referred to SARS-CoV-2 as the Wuhan virus at first, before the WHO coined the term COVID-19 in line with its policy of avoiding geographic monikers for new pathogens.
But former U.S. President Donald Trump revelled in still calling it the “Chinese virus” or even
terminology that has been linked to a rise in anti-Asian attacks in the U.S.
concluded that most COVID cases introduced into Canada from other countries came from the United States.
Ke recently helped found a new group, the Asian-Canadian Anti-Racism Alliance. Its initial members — announced at a virtual news conference for Toronto-area Chinese-language media — included the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO) and other groups f
. Not among them was the
and Elimin8Hate, which collaborated on a report last month that documented a sharp rise in anti-Asian racism incidents.
Ke, an immigrant from Quanzhou, China, was a student cadre at his undergraduate university there, organized an overseas Chinese students society — a type of group often close with local consulates — at the German university where he did a Master’s degree, and in 2013 was chosen by the Toronto consulate to attend a training session in China for ethnic Chinese leaders from other countries.
He and Babikian have
CTCCO and related events alongside China’s Toronto consul general, including celebrations in 2018 and 2019 of the 69
of the People’s Republic of China.
Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques