Coronavirus sparks racism towards Chinese living in Britain
Chinese students in the UK have been reporting racist comments sparked by the Coronavirus. Is hate-speak spreading faster than the disease itself?
The three men on the train were clearly drunk when they took their seats in the carriage alongside Yuqing Du, a Chinese overseas student studying at Birmingham University.
Yuqing and her friend were wearing masks, a common practice in China, and something seen even more often as students return from the Christmas break and news about the recent Coronavirus. They’d hardly left Paddington station after their weekend visit to the capital before the men starting yelling at the two students.
“We ignored them at
first,” said Yuqing still visibly shaken, as she recalls how things got
steadily worse. “They started singing the insulting songs and swearing ‘Fuck
China’ ‘Chinese virus’ all the time. It was really difficult for us.”
Racial attacks like that happened around the UK recently, which attracted considerable attention to over 120,000 Chinese students in the UK.
Liz, from Birmingham University, expressed her concerns, “I felt a weird sense of guilt. I don’t wear masks anymore and even controlled myself to stop sneezing or coughing at the public because I was afraid of being attacked.”
Chinese in-born cautiousness and silence didn’t get their deserved respect. Vicious discrimination has been reported in recent days. According to a local news report that a Chinese student at Sheffield University has been verbally and physically harassed for wearing a face mask.
The discrimination permeating in their daily life fuels the anger. Tina, a student from Sheffield University who has been rejected by Uber drivers recently said, “The coronavirus is just an excuse for those racists to express their racist mind openly.”
Meanwhile, media coverage also involved in racist discrimination arguments. For example, Germany Der Spiegel magazine published “a little racism is fine” and the Daily Telegraph uses “China kids stay home” as the news title to openly encouraged the discrimination.
Cultural differences are also a major cause of discrimination. “Wearing masks are less common in the UK and are easily being misunderstood,” said Phoebe local students from Cardiff University, “Those racists with extreme behavior are generally the young people without mature judgment or the drunk homeless. I believe most British people will not discriminate against Chinese people.”
The Public Health England also published relevant information without recommending wearing masks but advising people washing hands frequently, ventilating the room and covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
Faced with prejudice, Chinese students have to know how to protect themselves against discrimination. The spokesperson from Cardiff University said, “If you have experienced unpleasant or discriminatory behavior it is very important to tell someone from the University. We have a team of staff who are here to help if you experience violence or abuse.”
Law is also a good weapon. According to the UK government’s Equality Act 2010, any direct discrimination, indirection discrimination, harassment or victimization behaviors could all be accused. Chinese students should record evidence to protect themselves with legal weapons.
It should be noted that the overseas Chinese community, international students’ representatives are no longer in silence. They use the hashtag “I am not a Virus” on Twitter in different languages to raise public attention and resist discrimination. “This is a time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom.
Where there is discrimination, there is love. Wanli Wang, students from Cardiff University, shared her lovely story about understanding, “The cashier at Tesco did not look at my mask with questioning but say ‘hi’ to me in a friendly way.” During this distressing time, a friendly “hi” is enough to dissolve any fears.
In addition, many British universities have sent open letters fighting against any school discrimination towards Chinese students. Yinhui Jiang, Students from Newcastle University, received a heartwarming email from her school calling for empathy towards Chinese students, “Viruses don’t discriminate. And neither do we,” Yinghui said.
“I hope everything will be alright soon. We are here in the UK waiting for the spring,” said Yuqing still with a big mask covered half of her face, but she knew undoubtedly that the trauma of this horrible racial discrimination would disappear with the coronavirus in the near future.
The distribution of Chinese students all over the UK