In the early hours of Feb. 18, Alex Petro was in the office of Ale House, the bar he owns in London, Ont., when his bar manager told him, “We got trouble.”
There were stories making the rounds on the internet claiming that the establishment had told one, or in some versions of the story, two Chinese students that Chinese people are not allowed in the bar. The stories claimed the students were told to leave after asking that a sign outside the bar be changed. The sign, which Petro says had been in place for around 10 days before Feb. 18, read, “Mr. Ford History will show lockdowns caused more damage 2 the public then [sic] the China virus.”
Petro said in an interview that the stories about Chinese people not being allowed in the bar are fabricated, and he has invited people to look at the footage from the bar’s surveillance cameras to see for themselves.
The social media posts claiming the incident with the students took place have since been removed, but remain accessible using internet archive sites. The claims still remain in place on some Chinese sites as well as in a petition on change.org, which Petro says has so far refused to remove despite his requests. He says he has hired legal representation to pursue the issue further.
Since the Feb. 18 posts, the sign with the reference to “China virus”—whose wording Petro has since changed—has been denounced as racist, with some local politicians issuing statements condemning the sign, as well as a barrage of media reports on the racism claims.
“Being branded a racist is hurtful,” says Petro. “I really love the Chinese people.”
His intention in calling the virus the “China virus,” he explains, was to draw attention to the fact that the Chinese communist regime is responsible for the spread of the virus, since it tried to hide the outbreak and even punished the whistleblower doctors who leaked the news about the outbreak.
“It’s 110 percent against the oppressive government of China,” he says.
Petro has since changed the sign a few times. One iteration read, “We love Chinese People we hate the genocide and China virus your commie govt has inflicted on us.”
He says after this change he again attracted criticism for saying “your” government instead of “the” government.
“I acknowledge that. Was that malicious on my part? Absolutely not. I could have used ‘the,’ but I wasn’t thinking that deeply about it. I thought that my message was pretty clear that it was geared towards the government of China,” he says.
In another iteration he changed the sign to, “Calling out an oppressive govt is not racist period! We have (heart) respect 4 all people.”
His latest sign as of Feb. 22 asks for freedom of speech, which he notes is not allowed in China.
Petro says he finds it puzzling that there seems to be no issue with referring to the origin of the new virus variants as the UK, South African, and Brazilian variants, but there was a huge uproar about his reference to China.
“I felt something’s not right. We are terrified to call out this [Chinese] government,” he said.
As reported previously by The Epoch Times, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has launched multiple campaigns to claim that the COVID-19 pandemic originated in other countries. This has included large-scale use of social media advertisements viewed by millions linking statements by the U.S. administration about the origins of the virus in China to racism.
There have also been efforts by Chinese officials to pin the blame for the virus on specific countries. This included a claim by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian that the virus originated in the United States and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. Army. The U.S. State Department summoned the U.S. ambassador over the incident.
Chinese state-owned media have also published reports claiming that the virus appeared in Italy before the outbreak in China.
In hindsight, Petro says if he’d known his choice of words would be taken out of context he would have been more careful, as his criticism is toward the Chinese regime, who he says is suppressing the people of China.
But he says he’s quite concerned that some local politicians have made negative statements about him, and fears what the consequences will be.
Petro says his phone has been ringing non-stop with calls denouncing him or placing prank orders, but he has also received lots of support, including from members of the Hong Kong community who appreciate his stance against the Chinese regime.
“The way I see it, my own kids, and many others in general, are oblivious to what’s going on,” he says, referring to the CCP’s global threats, citing recent remarks by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that China is posing a threat to Canada on all fronts.
“To me, China is the biggest threat to the world. And it disturbs me that [among the younger people] there’s more sympathy towards this whole socialist slash communist movement, and it just breaks my heart,” he says.
“I wish these people would channel some of their energy towards our own government to end the genocide of the Chinese communist government, to see if we can do anything about the two Michaels [Kovrig and Spavor] that are imprisoned in China.”