Virus outbreak stokes anti-China sentiment, Latest World News - The New Paper

Virus outbreak stokes anti-China sentiment

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Racism spreading along with the virus in the form of online mocking, petitions to ban Chinese

JAKARTA/HANOI: The coronavirus outbreak has stoked a wave of anti-China sentiment, from shops barring entry to Chinese tourists, online vitriol mocking the country's exotic meat trade and surprise health checks on foreign workers.

The virus, which originated in China, has spread to more than a dozen countries, many of them in South-east Asia that already have sensitive relations with China amid concerns about Beijing's political clout in the region and sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea.

But as far away as France, a newspaper has come under fire for its "Yellow Alert" headline, echoing a historic Western racist term "Yellow Peril" used to sow fear of Asian influence, while the authorities and schools in Toronto, Canada, have warned against discrimination against Chinese Canadians.

"Orientalist assumptions plus political distrust plus health concerns are a pretty powerful combination," said Ms Charlotte Setijadi, an anthropologist who teaches at Singapore Management University.

Chinese authorities have said the virus emerged from a market selling illegally traded wildlife, giving rise to widespread social media mocking of China's demand for exotic delicacies and ingredients for traditional medicine.

"Stop eating bats," said one Twitter user in Thailand.

"Not surprising that the Chinese are making new diseases," another Thai user posted alongside a video clip that showed a man eating raw meat.

"Because your country is beginning (to) spread disease... we do not accept to serve the guest from China," read a sign in English outside the Danang Riverside Hotel in Danang, Vietnam. The authorities later told the hotel to remove the sign, its manager said in a Facebook post.

Many countries have imposed visa restrictions on travellers from Hubei province - the epicentre of the virus - while some airlines have suspended all direct flights to China.

But this is not enough for hundreds of thousands of people in South Korea and Malaysia who have signed online petitions calling for a ban on the Chinese from visiting their countries.

In an unusual move, Samal Island in the southern Philippines yesterday banned not just tourists from China but from all countries affected by the coronavirus to the popular beach spot.

China's boom in outbound tourism has created a pattern of international travel unprecedented in human history. Tourist numbers grew to estimates of more than 160 million last year.

But earlier this week, a group of Chinese tourists in Padang, in Indonesia's West Sumatra, were met by locals holding a banner that read: "We, the West Sumatran Communities, reject the visit of Chinese tourists."

In Myanmar, officials launched surprise health checks on Chinese workers in the Sagaing region after a local lawmaker accused them of spreading the virus. Checks found they had no symptoms of illness. - REUTERS