Student takes The Ubyssey to the BC Human Rights Tribunal to prove he’s not apathetic

As tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong gather for massive protests demanding democracy, this seems like a good time to pass on a bit of campus news from the summer. The Ubyssey was taken to the BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) over an article in which the terms “apathy, hostility, inability, and fear” were used to characterize the attitudes of Chinese international students towards western-style democracy.

In March 2014, The Ubyssey published “Going Home: Chinese International Students and Democracy“, a meandering feature about, in part, how a Western education seems to have little effect on the political views of students from mainland China.

Chinese international students at UBC did not take kindly to the article, with some feeling that the article portrayed them as unenlightened for not embracing western political values. The illustration depicting a panda in a suit probably didn’t help either. One student, Chen Xu, was motivated enough to bring a case to the BCHRT alleging that the article was responsible for creating “an inferior, misleading, false, stereotypical and discriminatory image which exposes such students to hatred, contempt, harassment and hostility.” Staff at the Ubyssey recall their office receiving an angry phone call from Mr. Xu, but had no other contact with him prior to receiving official paperwork about the complaint from the BCHRT. The paper hired legal representation to formulate a response, while Mr. Xu represented himself.

Ultimately, the complaint was dismissed, essentially on the grounds that this article represents a newspaper doing what a newspaper does. The BCHRT chair found that the article did not use hateful words or stereotypes, and the opinions expressed were reasonable and not discriminatory. [It's not like the paper called them Nazis or anything.] While the thesis behind the piece may be disagreeable to Mr. Xu and other Chinese international students, there was no probability that he would be able to prove the article would lead to hatred or contempt towards him or Chinese international students more generally.


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