Australian media urged to apologize for discriminating against Chinese amid coronavirus outbreak
Published: Jan 30, 2020 09:24 PM

A staff member disinfects public seats at a community in Haidian District in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 29, 2020. Haidian District of Beijing has carried out disinfection work with the help of professional staff at residential communities to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Photo: Xinhua

More than 46,000 people have signed a petition demanding the Australian media to apologize publicly for racism against the Chinese community after two media outlets carried headlines and highlighted characters on their front pages which labeled the novel coronavirus-related pneumonia as a "Chinese virus" and hyped sentiments that would require Chinese children to stay at home.

The Australian daily tabloid newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, published on its Wednesday's paper a report titled "China Kids Stay Home," according to a photo of the paper circulating online. 

The report said that the New South Wales government warned "parents not to send their children to school or daycare if they have recently been in China" due to "fears over the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak." Another Australian media outlet, the Herald Sun labeled the coronavirus as a "Chinese virus" also on its Wednesday's paper.

The two newspapers irritated Chinese nationals living in Australia who slammed the reports that they "inappropriately labeled the coronavirus by race", and "caused potential high risk of discrimination against Australian kids with Chinese backgrounds at school," read the petition statement on, a petition website. 

Wendy Wong started the petition on Wednesday and it has gained more than 46,000 supporters as of press time, shows.

The reports' choice of words are downright offensive and made an inestimable negative impact on the Chinese community worldwide, said the statement, noting that the two tabloids should "take serious responsibility of media ethics to report" in an unbiased and objective manner. 

A supporter with the username "Anna Ou" said the word "Chinese virus" used in the report is unbelievable, saying "No one called Ebola virus as Congo virus! No one called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) as European virus or French or American virus." The supporter urged the media to be respectful and humane, which has been "liked" more than 560 times as of press time.

"A local schoolmate of my younger sister, who studies at a school in Sydney, told her that they are scared of Chinese nationals as the virus from China would kill people," a Chinese national surnamed Du, who has been living in Australia for years, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Du said he was worried that the inappropriate reports could cause psychological harm and even physical bullying to Chinese students in Australia.

A 35-year-old Chinese national, who gave her name as Emma, has been living in Sydney since 2009. She told the Global Times on Thursday that after seeing the reports, the Chinese community in Australia, including users of a number of her WeChat groups that have hundreds of Chinese moms, became outrageous.  

They began to seek various ways to complain about the Australian media, and one of the approaches was to file an online petition on the website of the Australian Press Council.

"This arouses unnecessary fear in the general public, not to say the information within is misleading. In an inclusive country like Australia, it's shocking and disappointing to see such abusive and racist words used by a public media source," wrote a mom.

"In the face of the epidemic, what the media should do is calling on everyone to take scientific precautions, not to expand discrimination against a race, especially children," Emma told the Global Times.

Chen Hong, a professor and director of Australian Studies Center, East China Normal University, also believes that the two tabloids' choices of words are "deleterious." 

"It is alarming that in some countries including Australia there are emerging signs of racism which targets China and demonizes the Chinese way of life. At a time of such global crisis people need to unite under the banner of humanity," Chen told the Global Times.