Travel Trouble

“No Chinese allowed”: Racism surges as fear around coronavirus spreads

“No Chinese allowed”: Racism surges as fear around coronavirus spreads

The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a surge in anti-Chinese racism that adds to the anxiety felt by expatriate communities worldwide.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been overrun with hate speech in the form of racist memes and slurs and in some cases, suggesting violence against Chinese people or calling for the country to be “nuked”.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily turned people into racists but what it does is inflame the existing prejudices within the community,” said ANU researcher Yun Jiang, coeditor of the China Neican policy newsletter.

“So now people who perhaps have existing prejudice suddenly have an excuse to act out with racist behaviour and remarks.”

In South Korea, a number of businesses are refusing to serve Chinese customers, placing signs in windows reading, “No Chinese allowed.”

Similar notices have been placed in Japanese stores, saying that “No Chinese are allowed to enter the store. I do not want to spread the virus”.

Chinese authorities have announced that the official death toll has risen to 170, with 7,711 cases now reported across the country.

University of Manchester student Sam Phan wrote in The Guardian about how the panic was making him feel “more and more uncomfortable”.

“On the train over the weekend, a group sat opposite me chattering about their weekend plans,” Mr Phan wrote.

“One of them seriously advised the rest, ‘I wouldn’t go to Chinatown if I were you, they have that disease.’ In another loud conversation, I overheard a woman talking about how terrified she was that her friend, who had spent some time working with Chinese students, might have infected her with the virus.”

Mr Phan said as the virus spread, it had “revealed more and more stereotyped judgments about Chinese people”. “East Asians have been accused of instigating the virus by having ‘revolting’ eating habits,” he said. “Most Asians know these stereotypes all too well.”

Ms Jiang agreed. “You look at the history of racism, a lot of it is linked to concepts of hygiene and customs such as food — the western conception of what’s weird and not, what is hygienic — and I think that really plays into this racist discourse as well,” she said.