The BBC’s Chris Mason pointed out that it was simply “a fact” that the coronavirus was a “Chinese virus” after a Labour official refuted this description. Lara McNeill, a Youth Representative for Labour, said it was “not the case” that the pandemic was a Chinese virus, prompting Mason to intervene. He told the Labour official that “factually this is a Chinese virus,” adding that China “is where it came from”.
The on-air spat follows controversy in the US where President Donald Trump has received backlash for referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus”.
In response, China’s foreign ministry hit back at US president, before calling on him to “stop this despicable practice”.
During Friday evening’s panel discussion on BBC’s Any Questions, Ms McNeill tried to correct the host Chris Mason on his labelling of the pandemic.
She said: “There has been some appalling spike in hate crimes towards Chinese and East Asian people which is very worrying so we have to be careful about saying this is a Chinese virus. That is not the case.”
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Mason rebuked: “Hang on a minute, isn’t just factually this a Chinese virus? I mean that is where it came from?”
Ms Neill, who serves on Labour’s National Executive Council, responded: “There has been a lot of Chinese and East Asian people receiving racist abuse in the UK and across the world as a result of this, so it’s an important point to make, with people suggesting certain sanctions should be put on China because of this.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against terms such as the Chinese virus or Wuhan virus that link the virus to China or the city of Wuhan, where it was first detected, in order to avoid discrimination or stigmatisation.
After first receiving criticism for his own use of the phrase, President Trump has since doubled down on it.
He insisted that the phrase was not racist, adding: “It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”
When pressed on how Asian-Americans would react to this phrasing, President Trump resonded: “I think they probably would agree with it 100 percent. It comes from China.”
The US President received support from his Republican allies who defended the pandemic’s new name.
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John Cornyn, a Republican senator from Texas, said: “China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that. That’s why China has been a source of a lot of these viruses.”
However, China experts have warned that this label will increase tensions between China and US and encourage xenophobia towards Asian-Americans.
Asian-Americans have already reported incidents of racial slurs and physical abuse over the perception that China caused the COVID-19 outbreak.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the US should take care of their own matters, telling reporters: “Some US politicians have tried to stigmatise China which China strongly condemns.
“We urge the US to stop this despicable practice. We are very angry and strongly oppose it.”
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