'No Chinese allowed': Coronavirus panic fuels racism abroad
Updated 09:23, 02-Feb-2020
By Li Zhao

Despite the novel coronavirus outbreak ruining the Spring Festival for millions of people, the festival continues to be the grandest holiday in Asia. Chinese descendants living outside the virus-hit nation were trying to join in the festivities, but racism connecting Chinese or Asians with the virus has been surfacing in several countries in a time when solidarity should reign. 

A Chinese netizen posted a lovely photo of his parents posing in front of the car he bought them as a surprise. And here came this comment.

"Stay in China till the flu is gone thanks."

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Photo via Twitter

Photo via Twitter

Outside several Vietnamese restaurants, the signs declare, "No Chinese." In Japan, the hashtag #ChineseDon'tComeToJapan has been trending on Twitter. In Canada, there are reports of Chinese children being bullied or singled out at school. Big block letters announcing "Yellow Alert" were written next to a photo of a Chinese woman wearing a face mask on the front page of a French newspaper.

Even prestigious higher education institutions like the University of California at Berkeley has defined anti-Asian xenophobia as a "normal reaction" that people may experience as the global health crisis continues to unfold. The university, which has a significant amount of Asian students, later apologized after facing backlash.

The list goes on.

It is not always easy to draw a clear boundary between reasonable fear and subtle discrimination, yet many measures taken have surpassed their "protective" nature and are using the coronavirus as a scapegoat perpetuate outright racism.

'We are against the virus, not the Chinese'

"I cough in class, and everybody looks at me. I'm paranoid of coughing," an Asian student at Arizona State University, who prefers to stay anonymous, told the Business Insider.

According to the student, the coronavirus outbreak made the cultural divide between Asian internationals and American natives on campus even "more obvious.”

A sign on the door of a nail salon in Phu Quoc, Vietnam tells would-be Chinese customers that due to the coronavirus outbreak, they are not welcome. /Reuters Photo

A sign on the door of a nail salon in Phu Quoc, Vietnam tells would-be Chinese customers that due to the coronavirus outbreak, they are not welcome. /Reuters Photo

Another Arizona senior said, "People (but mostly Caucasians) kinda look at me a second longer, I guess, kind of questioning if I'm infected."

But not all are like that. Some "nice ones," as Silicon Valley resident Shen Chunjie has put it, "opened their arms."

In a screenshot Shen sent to Yitiao, one of China's short-video focused online digital brands, the principal of her friend's child sent this message to every parent in the kindergarten. "Everyone may get sick, so please don't isolate Chinese and anyone who is connected to China."

"We are against the virus, not the Chinese."

Toronto Mayor John Tory also spoke out this week, warning about the panic brought by the novel coronavirus and vowing to "stand with the Chinese community against stigmatization and discrimination."

"We must not allow fear to triumph over our values as a city," he said.

Eileen de Villa, head of Toronto Public Health, also warned on Wednesday that misinformation about the virus had created "unnecessary stigma against members of our community."

"Discrimination is not acceptable. It is not helpful, and spreading misinformation does not offer anyone protection."