China's embassy in Denmark has demanded an apology from daily Jyllands-Posten after it published a cartoon of the Chinese flag with its five yellow stars represented by coronavirus particles.
In a statement, the embassy said Jyllands-Posten and Danish artist Niels Bo Bojesen should apologise to the Chinese people for publishing the image, captioned "Coronavirus", in Monday's edition of the paper.
"Without any sympathy and empathy, it has crossed the bottom line of civilised society and the ethical boundary of free speech and offends human conscience," the embassy said on Tuesday.
In 2005, Jyllands-Posten published satirical drawings of the Prophet Mohammad that caused outrage across the Muslim world.
Editor-in-chief Jacob Nybroe said the paper had not intended to make fun of the situation in China, where the new coronavirus has killed 106 people and infected thousands, but refused to apologise, local newswire Ritzau reported.
"We cannot apologise for something that we don't believe is wrong," Nybroe told Ritzau. "We have no intention of demeaning or mocking the situation in China and we don't think the drawing does that."
Danish politicians from across the spectrum said China should not pressure the paper. "Full support for Jyllands-Posten," tweeted Conservative Party leader Soren Pape Poulsen.