A scary new virus from China has spread around the world. So has rising anti-Chinese sentiment, calls for a full travel ban on Chinese visitors and indignities for Chinese and other Asians.
Restaurants in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam have refused to accept Chinese customers. Indonesians marched near a hotel and called on Chinese guests there to leave. French and Australian newspapers face criticism for racist headlines. Chinese and other Asians in Europe, the United States, Asia and the Pacific complain of racism.
Two dozen countries outside of China have reported cases of the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 300 people and sickened thousands of others in China. Many countries have sent planes to the Chinese city of Wuhan to evacuate their nationals.
The anti-China sentiments come as a powerful Beijing bolsters its global influence, and China’s rise has caused trade, political and diplomatic disputes with many countries.
But with rising fear of the mysterious disease has come a more acute anti-Chinese and, in some cases, anti-Asian backlash.
South Korean websites have been flooded with comments calling on the government to block or expel Chinese and racist remarks about Chinese eating habits and hygiene. A popular Seoul seafood restaurant frequented by Chinese tourists posted a sign saying “No entry for Chinese” before taking it down Wednesday after an online backlash.
More than 650,000 South Koreans have signed an online petition filed with the presidential Blue House calling for a temporary ban on Chinese visitors. Some conservative opposition lawmakers publicly back these steps, and about 30 people rallied near the Blue House on Wednesday demanding the government immediately ban Chinese tourists.
“Unconditional xenophobia against the Chinese is intensifying” in South Korea, the mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial Thursday. “Infectious diseases are a matter of science, not an issue that can be resolved through an emotional outpouring.”
THE UNITED STATES
After news broke that someone attending Arizona State University has the virus, Ari Deng, who is Chinese American, said she sat down at a study table on the Tempe, Arizona, campus near five other students.
Deng, who was the only Asian, said the other students began whispering. “They got really tense and they quickly gathered their stuff and just left at the same time.”
In a recent business class a non-Asian student “said ‘Not to be racist, but there’s a lot of international students that live in my apartment complex. I try my best to keep my distance but I think it’s a good precaution for all of us to wash our hands,’” Deng said.
“It stings but I don’t let it take up room in my mind or weigh on my conscience,” she said.
Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley’s health services center removed an Instagram post Thursday that said “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about these feelings” were a normal reaction to the coronavirus outbreak.
“No matter how much time we spend in this country, at times we are almost immediately viewed as a foreigner,” Gregg Orton, the national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said. “It’s a pretty frustrating reality for many of us.”
The virus has deepened anti-Chinese sentiment in Hong Kong, where months of street protests against Beijing’s influence have roiled the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Last week, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended ferry and high-speed train services to the mainland and reduced flights between Hong Kong and Chinese cities.
Tenno Ramen, a Japanese noodle restaurant in Hong Kong, is refusing to serve mainland customers.
“We want to live longer. We want to safeguard local customers. Please excuse us,” the restaurant said on Facebook.
A French teacher started a Twitter conversation recently under #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I am not a virus) that has drawn numerous accounts of discrimination, from children taunted in the schoolyard to subway passengers moving away from people who appear Asian.
France has a significant and growing Asian community, and Chinese visitors are a pillar of the French tourism industry, but old prejudices run deep. A regional newspaper in northern France carried a front-page headline warning of a “Yellow Alert,” and later apologized amid national criticism.
“It’s a virus that comes from a region in China. It could have come from North Africa, Europe or anywhere,” said Soc Lam, a legal adviser to Chinese community groups in Paris. “People should not consider that just because we are Asian, we are more likely to spread the virus.”
A Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten, published a cartoon that replaced the yellow stars of the Chinese flag with representations of the virus. The Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen called the cartoon “an insult to China” and demanded the newspaper apologize.
The German Der Spiegel magazine ran a headline that said “made in China” along with a photo of an individual in protective gear.
On Friday, a cafe near Rome’s Trevi Fountain, a popular tourist site, posted a notice in its window saying “all people coming from China are not allowed access in this place,” according to the Italian news agency ANSA. When AP journalists went there to check on it, the post was no longer in the window.
AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
More than 51,000 signatures have appeared on an online petition demanding apologies from Australia’s two biggest-circulation newspapers over their headlines.
The petition condemned Melbourne’s Herald Sun headline Wednesday that read, “Chinese virus pandamonium,” a misspelling that plays on China’s native pandas, and Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph headline on the same day that read, “China kids stay home.”
Singaporean Kiwi Dollice Chua told the New Zealand Herald that when she went to an Auckland mall last week to buy a wedding card a woman gave her a dirty look and told her “You Asians are the ones who brought this virus.” Chua has lived in New Zealand for 21 years. “It’s racist and beyond rude,” she said.
Many Japanese have taken to social media to call for a travel ban for the Chinese visitors amid worries they’ll come to Japan for virus-related treatments. One tweet said, “Please ban Chinese tourists immediately,” while another said, “I’m so worried that my child may catch the virus.”
A candy store in Hakone, a hot springs town west of Tokyo, recently made headlines after it posted a note saying, “Chinese people’s entry into the store is prohibited.” On Wednesday, Menya Hareruya, a popular ramen chain in Sapporo on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, posted a sign saying “No entry for Chinese tourists.”
Zhang Jiaqi, a Chinese student in Tokyo, said he has not faced any unpleasant response from his Japanese classmates and friends, but, he added, “I noticed that some people have turned around or watched me with angry looks on their face when I was talking to my friends in Chinese.”
Last weekend, several hundred residents in the Indonesian tourist city of Bukittinggi marched to the Novotel Hotel, where some 170 Chinese tourists were staying, to protest their entrance into Indonesia.
They blocked roads near the hotel to prevent the Chinese, who’d arrived a day earlier, from getting out of the hotel. Local authorities decided to send the visitors back to China later in the day.
More than 400,000 Malaysians have signed an online petition calling for a ban on Chinese travelers and urging the government to “save our family and our children.”
A hotel in Danang, Vietnam, a popular beach destination, has been refusing to accept Chinese tourists.
A former police officer and town mayor, Abner Afuang, said he burned a Chinese flag on Friday in front of the National Press Club in Manila to protest the problems China has brought to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, including the virus and Beijing’s claim to disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippine president’s office said in a statement: “Let us not engage in discriminatory behavior, nor act with any bias towards our fellowmen. The reality is everyone is susceptible to the virus.”