søndag 2. februar 2020

Coronavirus fears fuel racism and hostility, say British-Chinese

Dr Zhou had just arrived at Gatwick airport last week when a British couple physically recoiled as she entered a lift. “The woman looked at me, quickly turned to her husband and told him ‘they should wear their masks’,” she said. “They assumed I didn’t understand English, that I was ‘fresh off the boat’ and that I probably had coronavirus.” Humiliated, Zhou – a scientist who was travelling from Londonto Slovenia – stood in uncomfortable silence.

“I give people the benefit of doubt because they’re scared, but why can’t they give me the benefit of doubt? Fear is no reason to be racist. Statistically, as a British citizen who hasn’t been to China in two years, I have the same risk level as a white person.”

Coronavirus has spread to at least 16 countries including Japan, Thailand, Australia, France, the US and the UK. Hostility and racism directed by some people towards east Asians seems to be spreading faster still.

Jess Kerntiff, who works in PR, said she was stunned when a friend sent her a viral Instagram post of “bat soup” falsely purporting to be a Chinese dish while making bogus claims that Chinese culture is to blame for coronavirus. “She kept asking me if I’d eaten it, what was the weirdest thing I’d eaten and so on. When I said, ‘I don’t know, crab or something’, she kept asking me what weird things people eat in Malaysia, which is where my family are from.”