Coronavirus Panic Isn’t An Excuse To Be Racist To Chinese People

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 03 Feb 2020 18:03
PA Images

In the midst of what has been dubbed a ‘global emergency’, you’d be forgiven for feeling apprehensive about the coronavirus pandemic that has been dominating the headlines in recent weeks.

The virus is reported to have infected 17,000 people in China and killed more than 360 people at the time of writing. Despite the severity of the situation, there’s something else toxic doing the rounds: a vile strain of anti-Chinese racism.


Social media can be a grim place at the best of times, but when something like the coronavirus comes around, it’s a toxic breeding ground for misinformation, discrimination and scaremongering.

Coronavirus Panic Isn't An Excuse To Be Racist To Chinese PeoplePA Images

I would challenge anyone to have a little scroll down their Twitter timeline and not find phrases such as ‘disgusting country’, ‘they’ll eat anything’, and some other racial slurs I don’t even feel comfortable typing.

One woman, who is of Chinese heritage, has been left not wanting to leave the house because of the causal racism being used against Chinese people in the wake of the outbreak.


Jade Sung told UNILAD:

It has definitely made me not want to go out as much; it’s literally all people are talking about and every conversation seems to be leading to it at the moment.

People’s opinions are soul-destroying. People are too quick to jump on hearsay instead of getting the real facts.

The first cases of the coronavirus emerged in people visiting or working in a live animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Coronaviruses come in many different strains and are known to jump from animals to humans, so it’s believed the first people infected with the virus contracted it from contact with animals.


Earlier today, February 3, a study by a Chinese virologist said a pneumonia outbreak associated with the coronavirus had likely started in bats.

Before this study was published, different reports had suggested contact with snakes and bats could have been the origin of the human outbreak, which prompted a series of videos of Asian people eating various types of fish and meat to go viral, alongside an onslaught of abuse.

One video, which appeared to show an Asian man eating live baby mice, was captioned:


Chinese ‘delicacy’, probably one of the causes for the emergence of #WuhanCoronavirus.

There’s absolutely nothing to suggest the man in the video is Chinese, and many residents from Wuhan have come forward to say they’d never heard of anyone in the city eating mice.

However, Jade was quick to point out that while western countries may well view a lot of genuine Chinese delicacies as ‘disgusting’, there are many western foods which would be repulsive to people in other parts of the world.


She explained:

The thought of someone eating cow is disgusting to Chinese Buddhists and the thought of eating pig is disgusting to Muslims.

Coronavirus Panic Isn't An Excuse To Be Racist To Chinese PeopleCoronavirus Panic Isn't An Excuse To Be Racist To Chinese PeopleTwitter
WarningGraphic ImageClick to reveal.

Another tweet, which claimed Chinese people were ‘killing their cats and dogs by throwing them out the window’ to prevent them from spreading the virus, was shared with the words: ‘Mate blow the whole of China up their a f*cking filthy horrible country’ [sic].

There’s absolutely no evidence of Chinese people doing anything of the sort, and so this kind of fake news is prompting an onslaught of vile hate while perpetuating stereotypes and creating barriers we’ve worked for decades to bring down.

‘The most upsetting part is I’ve even seen some people I classed as friends talk about it in a disrespectful way online,’ Jade said, adding, ‘as they’re meant to be my friends, I definitely class that as personal’.

What’s equally concerning is the semantics around ‘Chinese people spreading the virus’, as if residents from Wuhan have knowingly or purposely spread the coronavirus.

Coronavirus Panic Isn't An Excuse To Be Racist To Chinese PeoplePA Images

Jade said:

Recently I have seen so much stuff online related to this virus and how it’s come from ‘Chinese people’. That hurts.

It’s more frustrating though at how uneducated these people are with these opinions. I saw an article a few days ago and a Chinese lady was walking past and someone said, ‘Quick, cover your mouth and don’t go near her, she’s Chinese so you might get infected’. People don’t realise how their words and actions can affect others.

I can take a joke, but it’s devastating if it’s from someone random, who doesn’t know you, who intends to hurt you. People don’t realise how words can hurt.

I would hate the thought of my dad reading the stuff that’s going around online.

Many other people have been taking to social media to share their experiences with racism in the weeks following the outbreak of the virus. The common denominator seems to be that most people seem to think their comments will be taken in jest, without necessarily realising they’re fuelling the hatred and division sought by xenophobes.

Rhea Liang, a surgeon working and living on Australia’s Gold Coast, said:

Today a patient made jokes about not shaking my hand because of #coronavirus. In front of my team.

I have not left Australia. This is not sensible public health precautions. This is #racism.

Her comments came after a US doctor revealed her son was cornered at school by kids who wanted to ‘test’ him for the coronavirus, just because he’s half-Chinese.

‘They chased him. Scared him. And made him cry,’ Dr Nadia Alam wrote. ‘I was the same age when I was bullied for being Pakistani. It’s 2020. I thought things had changed by now.’

Coronavirus Panic Isn't An Excuse To Be Racist To Chinese PeoplePA Images

The Chinese government has even accused the United States of causing panic after it announced on Friday, January 31, that it would deny entry to foreign nationals who had visited China in the past two weeks.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said this latest move ‘could only create and spread fear’ rather than offering reassurance to US and Chinese citizens.

As per BBC, she said:

It is precisely developed countries like the US with strong epidemic prevention capabilities… that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to World Health Organisation recommendations.

With all that divides us, now is the time we should be coming together to support each other, instead of inciting hatred.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Featured, China, Coronavirus, Racism, Wuhan


Nature and 1 other
  1. Nature

    A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin

  2. BBC

    Coronavirus: China accuses US of causing panic and 'spreading fear'