EOC Strongly Condemns Apple Daily for Misreporting Its Press Statement
On the evening of 14 April 2021, it came to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)’s attention that an online report by Apple Daily regarding the Government’s proposal for a “vaccine bubble” scheme had misquoted an EOC statement by replacing its reference to COVID-19 with the “Wuhan virus”. Despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) announced COVID-19 as the official name of the virus as early as in February 2020, Apple Daily, along with an obstinate few, has continued to use a stigmatising label consistently condemned by the EOC.
The misreporting undermines the EOC’s yearlong efforts in tackling prejudice sparked by the pandemic, including an article published in September 2020, which stressed that any stigmatising language would be counter-productive (available at https://www.eoc.org.hk/EOC/Upload/UserFiles/File/twdpwm0119.pdf).The EOC strongly condemns Apple Daily for the misquote and reserves the right to take further action.
When the coronavirus first broke out, it was named differently across the world in the absence of an official name designated by the WHO. However, even after the WHO decided on COVID-19 as the official name in February 2020, “Wuhan virus” remained in usage among some journalists in Hong Kong. Some prominent politicians overseas have even referred to the virus as “Kung Flu” and the “China virus”.
In a 2015 guideline on the naming of new human infectious diseases, the WHO recommended that disease names should not include: geographic locations; people’s names; species/class of animal or food; cultural, population, industry or occupational references; and terms that incite undue fear. The aim is to “minimise unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups”.
Following the WHO’s announcement in 2020, the EOC believes that all names other than COVID-19 are now unnecessary and should be avoided. Terms such as Wuhan virus, Kung Flu and China virus have no practical value to the greater good, and only serve to divide, stigmatise, and fuel hate. The #StopAsianHate campaign currently burgeoning in the West is inspired precisely by a desire for an end to violence based on such bias and prejudice. As the world grapples with a still-untamed pandemic, the EOC calls on the press and all sectors in Hong Kong to steer clear of divisive and discriminatory language, and to join the EOC in building a just and inclusive society.
Equal Opportunities Commission
15 April 2021