Excerpted from The Guardian, the prestigious newspaper in London – Chinese people in western countries where there have been cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have said they have been the target of racist abuse as paranoia mounts over the outbreak.
In Italy, the European country with the highest annual number of Chinese tourists, the confirmation of two confirmed cases – a couple who arrived in Milan from Wuhan on 23 January on a lunar new year holiday – coincided with incidents of xenophobia and calls to avoid Chinese restaurants and shops.
Roberto Giuliani, the director of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, one of the oldest music institutes in the world, was criticised by colleagues on Wednesday after telling students from China, Japan and South Korea not to come to class until after a doctor had visited their homes to ensure they have not contracted the virus.
La Repubblica published a photograph on its website showing a cafe near the Trevi fountain in Rome with a sign outside saying “all people coming from China” were barred from entering.
More than 300,000 Chinese people live in Italy and 5 million visited in 2018.
“Unfortunately, one of the inevitable impacts of this illness is xenophobia,” Marco Wong, a local councillor in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to a large Chinese population, told the Guardian.
“Parents aren’t sending their children to school if there are Chinese classmates and people are writing on the internet not to go to Chinese shops and restaurants. There is also a lot of fake news spreading – for example, an audio of an Italian guy claiming that he is in Wuhan and that he knows of a secret laboratory where this virus was created.”
Fears over the coronavirus have affected Chinese populations in other countries, too. On Wednesday, the mayor of Toronto condemned racism against Chinese-Canadians, and there have also been reports of anti-Asian racism in the UK.
In France, Chinese residents have been sharing their experiences using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I am not a virus). One young woman calling herself Forky wrote on Twitter: “Not all Asians are Chinese. Not all Chinese were born in China and not all have been there. An Asian who coughs doesn’t have the #coronavirus. Insulting an Asian because of the virus is like insulting a Muslim because of the bombings.”
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