Asian citizens across Britain are facing a huge increase in violence and abuse directed toward them following the Chinese coronavirus outbreak and subsequent campaign of mass hysteria from the mainstream media and government.
A report highlighted by The Guardian notes that cases of sinophobia have risen throughout the country with incidents reported in Manchester, Sheffield, Leicestershire and York.
In one case, two students were pelted with eggs on the street in Market Harborough, the pair being mistakenly identified as Chinese by their attackers.
In other incidents, a postgraduate student was physically attacked and abused in the street for wearing a face mask in Sheffield, while in York police are dealing with two cases of Asians being abused in the street over the pandemic and one of staff being abused at an Asian tea house. The University of York was also forced to call for respect and tolerance after xenophobic and racist comments appeared on their anonymous confessions webpage, Yorfess. The University of York is home to around 2000 Chinese students.
In Manchester meanwhile, home to the second-largest Chinatown in the UK, The Manchester Chinese Centre has received dozens of complaints about racist incidents that have been reportedly targeted at children in schools.
Last week, we reported on how London’s Chinatown has suffered a significant downturn in business since initial reports of the outbreak spread across the media.
“As you can see this street is getting quieter than before, just because of the virus, but actually I don’t think that the situation is that severe but people worry,” said Ocean, a local business operator.
There have only been four confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Britain, with the overwhelmingly vast majority of victims confined to China.
Speaking last week after the government advised British citizens to leave China, Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, warned against an “overreaction” and “creating panic”, urging “the governments of all countries including the UK to understand and support China’s efforts” to contain the spread of the flu-like virus. The ambassador added that “normal co-operation” between nations should prevail.
“Rumours and panic are more frightening than the virus itself,” Xiaoming maintained… Confidence and determination are of vital importance in overcoming [the] epidemic. The issue of public health goes beyond national borders and requires the joint efforts of all sides including the media, who should take up their due social responsibility in this battle against a common enemy of mankind”Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK,
Alongside the existing belligerent anti-Chinese rhetoric from the United States and British governments, the political and media reaction to the coronavirus has exposed deep-rooted sinophobia in the west with much of the coverage falling into traditional tropes of the “yellow peril” that has its origins in European colonialism.
“Since early 2018, the American immigration and justice system has appeared to target Chinese students, and ethnically Chinese researchers, with paranoid rhetoric, visa restrictions, and targeted policing and politicisation of China-connected research. Together, these three trends comprise the primary — but not only — components of the current atmosphere of suspicion and distrust in America of not just Beijing, but Chinese people as a whole. In other words, sinophobia.”SupChina
Quoted in The Guardian, Jex Wang, a Chinese-Australian DJ and writer, says that stereotypes are running rampant at the core of the coronavirus hysteria.
“Stereotypes of Asians as submissive and non-aggressive make them a target that people think they can make fun of and laugh at. I’ve seen posts saying Chinese people are dirty, disgusting, uneducated, we ‘deserved’ the virus because of our ‘weird’ food habits. I kept seeing memes and jokes being shared which really upset me. There was even a coronavirus-themed club night in Sheffield that got shut down – they were offering ‘traditional Chinese hats’ to the first 100 people. What is a traditional Chinese hat??”Jex Wang
While the coronavirus is rightfully being treated as a serious matter by governments, NGOs and the press, it is hard to deny that the hysterical reaction has been disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the virus. The reaction, which has exposed long-existing sinophobic prejudices, has been expertly wielded by anti-Chinese elements within western governments and the media, seeking to denigrate China in the public eye as the country rapidly ascends to being the world’s premier economy and superpower. This irresponsible propaganda has, in turn, led to what have, so far, been minor violent and abusive incidents across Britain. The British government and media need to get a grip on their coverage and begin presenting actual facts as opposed to scaremongering before somebody is more seriously injured by the pandora’s box of racism that is beginning to be unleashed against Chinese and Asian communities.
Main Image: Chinatown, Manchester, at Chinese New Year. The thoroughfare, Faulkner Street, is filled with people and features an Imperial Arch. | Pete Birkinshaw