racism
Image: Flickr / Steve Cadman

Chinese students facing racism and discrimination following coronavirus outbreak

Chinese students in the UK are experiencing racism and discrimination following the outbreak of coronavirus. 

Academics from the Open University, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Surrey interviewed Chinese students about their experiences of xenophobia since the outbreak. 

All students interviewed said they had faced xenophobic remarks. 

Students reported being shouted at, sworn at, and chased. These attacks have all been related to coronavirus with students being called “a virus” or accused of bringing the virus to the UK. Some students have also experienced physical violence. 

University College London student Jonathan Mok was attacked so brutally that he may need facial surgery. After he was assaulted in London, he heard someone shout “coronavirus”. 

Chinese students were also found to have high levels of anxiety and insecurity. 

Since these attacks against Asian students are so common, I cannot say that Western universities are doing enough to protect Asian students

– Dr Cary Wu

The same study found that many students decided to return home, partially as they felt concerned about racist attacks if they stayed in the UK. One student said: “I have to go to China, it could be dangerous for me to stay here.”

One of the researchers, Dr YingFei Héliot, said that there could be long-lasting effects and that universities have a responsibility to “create a psychologically safe environment for every student”.

Dr Cary Wu, who works in the department of sociology at the University of York, said: “Our findings show that international students from China are experiencing very high levels of anxiety, discrimination and insecurity living through the coronavirus period.

“Since these attacks against Asian students are so common, I cannot say that Western universities are doing enough to protect Asian students… During this difficult time, it becomes much more important for universities to publicly denounce xenophobia.”

In 2003, SARS was also racialised and created an anti-Chinese rhetoric, after many Asians faced xenophobic attacks as a result. 

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