Chinese children in UK suffering racism due to coronavirus


Parents claim Chinese children are being ostracised by their friends in British schools because of the coronavirus outbreak, with some refusing to play with them.

Mothers have told the BBC that people are being ‘racist’ against the youngsters because of an ‘unfair’ perception that the outbreak is a Chinese virus.

Meanwhile blogger Jex Wang has claimed people on public transport are ‘moving away’ from those of East Asian origin, leaving her ‘anxious’ to leave the house.

And a 54-year-old Taiwanese market stall holder in Aberystwyth, West Wales, has said other stallholders tried to turf her out and told her to ‘go home’.

One mother told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Some of them say ‘my mum told me I’m not going to play with you because you going to carry virus’.’

Another said: ‘People really racist against the Chinese children because from the newspapers and the media say this is a Chinese virus, which is so unfair.’

Commenting on the Radio 4 report, Muslim author Shelina Janmohamed tweeted: ‘So sad to hear the bullying and racism faced by the UK’s Chinese community especially kids.

‘I hope we all intervene if we see this. It brings back sore memories of being told as a child I had the ‘lurgy’ because my skin is brown. Wrong then. Wrong now.’

Writer and photographer Jex Wang, who has lived in Australia, China and France, told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: ‘I got the same treatment when I was a child when the Sars outbreak happened.

‘My friends’ parents said that they weren’t allowed to hang out with me any more at school in case they got Sars.

‘I was nine, and at that point in my life I hadn’t been to China for two years. I grew up in Australia, so I was just like where are these thoughts coming from?

‘It’s not only Chinese people, it’s a lot of East Asian people I know as well going through the same thing, like people moving away from us on public transport. That’s why I’ve been anxious to leave the house.

‘Because when I first saw the virus, I mean my first thought was with the people in Wuhan and what they are going through because it’s horrible, then my second thought was ‘I’m going to have to deal with more racism because of this now’.’

Wales market stall-holder Su Chu Lu had been to Taiwan – an island off the coast of China – to visit her family, but when she came back neighbours had turned on her.

She said a group of them had held a meeting and decided to try and ban her from returning to her stall over fears she would ‘put them all at risk’ of catching the virus. 

Ms Lu became upset and refused to leave unless the authorities told her to.  Other traders sided with her and even put up posters saying she should be allowed to stay.

Another insisted it wasn’t racist and they would have said the same if she’d been somewhere else where there was a disease outbreak.

There have been ten confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Taiwan, which has a population of around 24 million people.

Ms Lu said: ‘I have no doubt this is because of my nationality, because of my skin colour, that’s what makes me deeply unhappy about this.

‘I think they assume I have gone to China but I didn’t go, and they still didn’t believe me. I don’t know if they believe me now.’ 

It comes after boarding schools were told to watch out for anti-Chinese bullying among pupils prompted by the outbreak which has killed 425 people in China.

Guidance issued by the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) also says that pupils who do travel to China should be told that when they return to the UK they may face ‘protective measures’, including quarantine.

China sends more pupils to UK fee-paying schools than any other country, with Chinese children making up around one in six of all international students.

On Saturday it emerged Chinese pupils at a top British boarding school had been barred from flying home for the holidays for fear of them contracting the virus.

Hereford Cathedral School said all planned trips to visit loved ones had been scrapped and the boarding house would stay open during half term next week.

The £15,000-a-year institution ratcheted up efforts to insulate its students and staff from the infection after the first two cases were confirmed on UK soil.

Other private schools with overseas students are also banning them returning to China.

A senior source at a top British boarding school told MailOnline: ‘I doubt many if any schools will be sending pupils back at half term. All of ours are not returning, including some from Thailand.’

Guidance published on the BSA’s website gives its member schools information on the virus and advice on dealing with the situation.

In a section on supporting students, the guidance says it is natural that students, particularly those from China, will be concerned.

The BSA suggests that pupils from affected areas should be ‘suitably and publicly supported’.

‘They will be worried about themselves but more particularly about their friends and families’, the advice says.

It also counsels schools to ‘stay alert for any signs of xenophobia by students towards one another, or by any external audiences, either in school or on social media sites’.

‘Such behaviour should not be tolerated and action should be taken against anyone acting in this way’, it adds.

A BSA spokesman said: ‘We have not heard of anything happening in our schools, and we don’t envisage it happening in our schools, we are trying to make sure we are covering every eventuality.’

A separate section on pupils travelling to China advises schools that they should tell students who decide to travel that ‘protective measures could well be in place before they return’.

‘Depending on how the virus spreads in that time, this could include the need for returning pupils to be quarantined’, it says.

‘This should not be seen as an over-reaction or ‘scare-mongering’ but is based on experience gained from the progress of previous such diseases.’

The BSA also says it understands that some schools have already cancelled visits from prospective parents and pupils from China.

‘While cancellation may be unnecessary, it is obviously prudent to minimise any unnecessary risk’, it said.

Sources have told MailOnline that parties of prospective students and parents who planned to tour schools ahead of next year’s intake have been axed while the world wrestles to squash the spread of the virus.

Wellington School in Somerset has advised parents of Chinese pupils to forbid their children from flying back for the break.

Headmaster Eugene du Toit told the County Gazette: ‘I have also told parents of students in year 11 and in the upper sixth that they should anticipate not allowing their children to travel home during the Easter break so that their ability to complete external examinations is not compromised.

‘It is of paramount importance that we do everything within our power to minimise the threat of coronavirus to our children and the community and keep everyone safe.’

Chinese citizens have faced a racist backlash across the world following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

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 complained of racism.

Two dozen countries outside of China have reported cases of the new coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of 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 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.

A French teacher started a Twitter conversation 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 apologised 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 apologise.

The German Der Spiegel magazine ran a headline that said ‘made in China’ along with a photo of an individual in protective gear.

Last 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.

The post was no longer in the window when reporters went back.

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 centre removed an Instagram post last 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.’ 

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 last 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 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.

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.

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.’ 

Last 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.’

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 last 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.’


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