Freedom of Expression and Discrimination – should it be banned?

By Yan Chen

In January 27, 2020, Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, had published a cartoon graphic of the Chinese flag with five coronavirus particles photoshopped over the five stars. The author Niels Bo Bojesen played a malicious joke on the current serious and sorrowful situation in China and had hurt the feeling of all Chinese people who was suffering now.

When Chinese government has demanded an apology from the newspaper and the illustrator, they refused to apologize for it because they thought that was their freedom of expression in Denmark. Indeed, they even did not think they make anything wrong, and in their culture, making fun of a nation flag is permissible. Additionally, many Danish people kept spreading out some online memes that critique Chinese people and government as vulnerable.

In my perspective, I can never believe that anyone in the world is able to mock others due to his freedom of expression. I think this behavior has already crossed the bottom line of ethical boundary of free speech. The virus had killed thousands of people in the world, whereas the newspaper still made fun of that without sympathy, which is definitely immoral and inhuman. I think this is systemic injustice, because the power of freedom cannot become anyone’s excuse to bully others.

Simone de Beauvoir introduces the concept of the Other in her work “The second sex”. In this case, I think people from China suffering the virus were categorized as the Other by Danish people who were making fun of that. In this semester, many literary works described the experience of prejudice which I think has similarity to this situation. For instance, Ortiz Cofer wrote in her novel “The Story of My Body” that she experienced racial prejudice many times because she was thought as the Other by those native persons.