‘They are burning Pokemons,’ a journalist giggled while covering the Chinese tribute celebrations on France’s most-viewed news channel.
Rabat – Emmanuel Lechypre of BFMTV, France’s most-watched news channel, giggled while narrating coverage of Chinese mourners paying respect to COVID-19 victims. “They are burning Pokemons,” the journalist whispers while the camera shows Chinese officials and citizens bowing to commemorate their dead.
According to official health records, 3,326 Chinese have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus. The total number of infections reached 81,639 as of April 4.
The tribute to victims was paid across the country on Saturday, April 4: Chinese mourners observed three minutes of silence after Beijing’s air raid sirens wailed in the morning. Live footage was aired from Wuhan, where most of the casualties occurred.
Chinese authorities claim that the virus has largely been contained due to strict measures imposed since the end of January. The commemoration ceremony was a way for the government to signal that the country’s outbreak had been brought under control.
The quarantine imposed at the end of January in Wuhan, the initial epicenter of the global pandemic, will be lifted on April 8. Amid a sense of relief, concerns remain regarding whether the disease has been fully contained. Fears over the return of the virus during the summer remain as well.
Lechypre’s remark enraged the internauts, who quickly deemed the journalist a racist. BFMTV apologized for the journalist’s joke by issuing a video in which Lechypre apologizes, asks pardon by explaining that he “thought the microphones were off.”
Anti-Chinese racism has erupted since the outbreak of COVID-19. The world assigned blame to China for the novel virus, and high-ranking American officials aggravated the situation, repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus.” Chinese citizens and people of Chinese descent faced discrimination, and at times even faced physical assault. Asian Americans reported over 650 racist incidents since the COVID-19 outbreak began.