'Corona Time' photo of Flemish students: 'No offence intended'

'Corona Time' photo of Flemish students: 'No offence intended'
The school stated that "no offence was intended" with the picture. Credit: RR

A photo of Flemish students dressed up as Chinese people holding a sign with “Corona Time” has gone viral on social media after several people criticised it for being offensive and racist.

The photo shows last year students (17-18 years old) of the Sint-Paulusschool Campus College Waregem, in the Flemish province of West-Flanders, wearing what the school defined as "traditional Chinese clothing", and two people dressed in panda costumes.

The added mouth masks, surgical gloves and the sign proclaiming “Corona Time”, which also shows a drawing of a person wearing a mask, caused a storm of criticism online. One girl is pictured pulling at the corners of her eyes, a gesture perceived as derogatory to many people of Asian descent.

The picture was taken on Friday 6 March, for the ‘100 Days' celebration, an event in which the students celebrate the end of their secondary education in a carnivalesque way. "No offence was intended," according to the school.

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The photo was posted on the school's Instagram and Facebook pages but has since been removed from both, and the Facebook profile has been deleted, after many comments from people across the world denouncing the "racist, ignorant and insulting" photo. However, screenshots of the picture were spread on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and even made the international press.

"They choose an outfit long beforehand, in this case even long before there was any mention of the coronavirus. The students alluded to the recent events in a playful way by adding a sign," the school wrote in a press statement on its website. "Neither the school team, nor the students involved have ever had the intention of adopting a condescending or offensive attitude," they added.

"The school would like to express its apologies publicly and explicitly through this statement. We did not estimate the consequences of publishing this picture correctly and we regret having offended certain population groups by it," the statement concluded.

The picture comes as there are over 124,000 confirmed cases of people infected with the new coronavirus (Covid-19) worldwide, and more than 4,600 people have died from the virus.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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