Mail carriers refuse to deliver newspaper that stokes anti-Asian racism
Epoch Times spreads misinformation
On February 2, Ramiro Sepulveda, a Canada Post employee, returned to work after an emergency suspension that came about after he refused to deliver a copy of the Epoch Times. Sepulveda is the second of two workers who took this action after notifying the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) – the other, Linying Su, was born in China and cited a concern about anti-Asian sentiment being spread through the paper’s coverage of COVID-19. “I may not be able to stop other people from delivering these papers, but I can stop myself from doing things that betray my own belief,” said Su to CBC.
Sepulveda and Su’s actions are not isolated. Postal workers across Canada are objecting to the delivery of the Epoch Times because of the messaging it promotes, and their union is moving to support them. CUPW in Scarborough attempted to order the stoppage of delivering the Epoch Times, but Canada Post has stated that workers must continue to do so. Derek Richmond, the CUPW local’s vice-president, said it was “very irresponsible” of the Canada Post to accept and distribute the Epoch Times with its threat of stoking the fires of xenophobia.
In Toronto and Montreal in particular, anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiment has led to a decline in business for Asian store owners as well as racist violence. Chinese-Canadians have long spoken out about the racialization of viruses such as COVID-19. The Epoch Times, a paper started by Chinese-Canadians, is troubling the waters further as it links the spread of COVID-19 directly to the Chinese Communist Party – an angle often favored by former US President Donald Trump and his supporters, among others.
What kind of things, exactly, is the Epoch Times saying in relation to the pandemic? The paper recently delivered eight pages of coverage of the virus in one of its issues, “exploring the idea that the virus that causes COVID-19 was created as a biological weapon.” The Epoch Times calls COVID-19 “the CCP virus,” and entertains the notion that its spread was intentionally covered up by the CCP in order to create a global crisis. It was also reported by CBC that this special issue was delivered to “specific neighborhoods,” although this is not expanded on widely. While this issue is meant to be a “sampler,” many complained that it was inappropriate material to be delivered to a mailbox, and that it was racist and inflammatory.
The idea that COVID-19 was a virus manufactured by the CCP in a lab is an untrue conspiracy theory. Stepping back and viewing this theory, it should be obvious that it bears a striking resemblance to historical “red scare” propaganda from the 1950s, propaganda that at the time targeted not China but the USSR. It is meant to stoke fear and encourage an enemy along xenophobic lines during a time of panic, and this anti-CCP stance is shared profitably between the Epoch Times and Trump supporters who benefit from racism and anti-socialism. The Epoch Times maintains that they are not stoking sinophobia, as there is a difference between the Chinese people and the CCP. However, the rise in anti-Asian violence in Canada speaks for itself.
The Chinese-Canadians who started the Epoch Times and its extended circle of associated media also share pro-Trump content because of this mutual benefit. The anti-CCP sentiment on the Epoch Times’ part derives from the paper’s association with the Falun Gong movement, a religious/spiritual practice with a history of animosity towards the CCP. Before aligning with pro-Trump media, the paper’s circle of influence was much smaller. Now, their shared political views make them a formidable force behind the Canadian right and far-right.
The Epoch Times has a stand at our own University of Regina, meaning that we as students must also take a critical stance towards its contents. Promoting critical thinking was the rationale behind Sepulveda’s refusal to deliver the Epoch Times, he says to CBC. In a time where 1 in 10 Canadians believe a conspiracy theory about COVID-19, we need to know about the source, content and slant of the media we are reading, and be aware of what the intention is behind it all. The Canada Post says of its insistence to deliver the paper, “We understand the reaction to this publication. However, as Canada’s postal system, we are legally required to deliver it. The content is the sole responsibility of the publisher.” In light of this, we might consider our responsibilities as readers, consumers and supporters of journalism. What messages do we want to internalize and spread?