“Many of my friends are afraid!”

 Sudents at Strathclyde open up about racism due to the coronavirus

By Lukas Vojacek

I do not think that you will find a more heated topic in the world today than the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The perilous epidemic, that started only few months ago in the large Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread around the globe and paralyses our civilization in fear. As of the beginning of March 2020, they are more than 92 000 confirmed cases in more than 65 countries, including United Kingdom. Over 3000 people were killed by the disease and the horrible numbers are rising every day.

Furthermore, coronavirus caused political and economic instability all over the planet. Millions of people had to cancel or change their travelling plans. Many others are afraid to leave their houses. For example, people of the Czech Republic last week almost completely emptied the shelves of local supermarkets in order to stock up on essential supplies.

Unfortunately, the current crisis also triggered the alarming wave of racism and xenophobia against people of Chinese origin. In South Korea, more than 650 000 individuals signed an online petition calling for a temporary ban on Chinese visitors. A number of other places in Europe, United States and Australia are reporting cases of racist behaviour towards people of East-Asian descent or appearance. It is in fact, a very serious issue. Apart from worrying for their friends and relatives back at home, the Chinese living abroad have to face insults or even threats because of their nationality at the same time. How is the situation in Britain? I asked a few students at Strathclyde and the results are not exactly comforting.

“I have not encountered any discrimination due to coronavirus myself, but I have heard that some Chinese students were called ‘viruses’ by local young people on the street in Newcastle” says a Chinese Postgraduate student from the University of Strathclyde who preferred to stay anonymous.

“Many of my friends are afraid of racism. They are even lots of hashtags on Twitter that are encouraging discrimination and bias against our country” claims another Chinese student at Strathclyde.

He also explains that many conflicts are caused by cultural differences: “For example, the face masks. People in UK are using them only when they are sick. But in China we wear them as precaution to protect ourselves and the others. Some of my friends here are now worried to put the masks on because it may cause misunderstanding.”

Even though, none of the respondents were affected by coronavirus directly, both of them expressed deep concerns about their fellow citizens at home. “I think the situation in China could be more serious than the official announcement” says one of them.

“People in many cities are still unable to start school and work normally. I keep warning my family not to go out again and again” remarks the other one.

He, however, believes that despite some rumours in the Western press, Chinese government could not do a better job in dealing with the crisis: “It is really hard to manage 1,4 billion people. I think the authorities are doing their best. Wuhan was on lock down to stop the virus from spreading. The world should pay respect to local inhabitants for their sacrifice. Also, people should help and respect each other without boundaries as viruses can attack any of us.”

Let’s just hope that at least our campus will stay free of hate and prejudice. Meanwhile, we encourage all students to stay vigilant and informed about the latest updates on coronavirus. Some useful information could be found here.