Yesterday’s Daily Mirror reported about Chinese government’s concern over the incidents in Sri Lanka where its nationals having been refused to be entertained by shops and taxis, subsequent to the worldwide media hype over the outbreak of 2019-nCoV disease caused by a novel coronavirus since last month, mainly in China. Earlier too local newspapers had published pictures of a restaurant having put up a notice saying it had temporarily shunned Chinese visitors.
However, the situation is not confined to Sri Lanka alone. It seems to be a phenomenon in many countries. International media have already published so many stories about discrimination and xenophobia in various countries not only against Chinese nationals but also against Chinese descents, people from South East Asia and
Sam Phan, a Master’s student at the University of Manchester, had written in the Guardian: “This week, my ethnicity has made me feel like I was part of a threatening and diseased mass. To see me as someone who carries the virus just because of my race is, well, just racist.” The Guardian also reported that the entrance to a seafood restaurant in downtown Seoul bore a sign that read, in red Chinese characters, “No Chinese allowed.” That same day, the union of food delivery workers in the same city had asked to be excused from making deliveries to areas with a large Chinese population.
A Canadian-based journalist Andrew Kurjata tweeted “Perhaps revealing some naiveté, I’m surprised at the level of vitriol towards Chinese people I’m seeing in the comments sections of stories about the Wuhan Coronavirus.”
One Chinese man interviewed on France’s BFMTV had described walking out of a Paris gym and being accosted by teenagers, who laughed and said: “There’s Coronavirus coming.”
Italian media have reported cases of Chinese tourists being verbally abused and spat at in Venice, and of a 13-year-old boy being forced out of a football match by insults.
In an interview on CBC News Network, Justin Kong, the executive director of the Toronto Chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, said: “If someone looks Chinese or appears to be Asian, the assumption is that they’re virus carriers.”
A French newspaper, Le Courrier Picard, published the headline “Yellow Alert” on its cover on last January 27, and titled an editorial “A New Yellow Peril.” However, the newspaper quickly apologised, saying the move was unintentional, but the damage was done.
A newspaper in Denmark had published an image of the Chinese flag with its five yellow stars represented by Coronavirus particles, depicting the entire Chinese nation as viruses. In a statement, the embassy in Copenhagen said Jyllands-Posten and Danish artist Niels Bo Bojesen should apologise to the Chinese people for publishing the image, captioned Coronavirus. However, the newspaper refused to apologise, saying it was not wrong.
The situation has been such that even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad had to intervene to ease the racial tensions in their countries following the media bombardment on the new disease.
Dr Mohamad said: “The government will take action on those spreading fake news to instil fear among Malaysians and incite hatred among the races.” Trudeau also urged Canadians to stay united and warned against the rise of discrimination as fears of the coronavirus spread.
Against this backdrop, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying had said in a statement days ago “In view of the practical difficulties Chinese citizens from Hubei province, especially Wuhan, have faced overseas, the Chinese government has decided to send charter flights to take them directly back to Wuhan as soon as possible.”
What a pathetic situation! Non-Chinese are running away from China, especially from Wuhan for fear of Coronavirus whereas China is going to bring back people to the same city hit by the virus for fear of discrimination and xenophobia. They seem to have thought that it is worth dying in the motherland rather than being insulted and harassed by others in the name of their nationality. The illogicality and also the ludicrousness of the fear and discrimination are well manifested in the pattern of their spread. First people from Hubei Province were seen as viruses in other provinces in China itself. And then the entire Chinese were deemed viruses in Korea, Vietnam and countries in the same South-East Asian region followed by a trend of discrimination of South Asian people in countries of European and American continents.
What if this virus or some other hit a country in those continents on a worse scale tomorrow? No nation is synonymous with any disease.