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27th February 2020

Manchester students face racist abuse over coronavirus

Students said they had been both physically and verbally targeted as a result of the infection
Manchester students face racist abuse over coronavirus
Photo: Delusion23 @ Wikimedia Commons

Chinese students in Manchester have spoken out after receiving racist abuse related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Students said they had been both physically and verbally targeted as a result of media reports surrounding the infection – which originated in China. 

Yirong Wang, a final year Textiles student at the University of Manchester, told The Mancunion that she had faced verbal abuse with friends in Chinatown. 

“We were withdrawing cash at an ATM – then a man suddenly rushed at us and yelled ‘F*cking Chinese virus,’” she said. 

“I felt scared and shocked. I no longer dare to wear a face mask outside.” 

Another student, Kami, a first-year studying Economics, said she was physically assaulted by a stranger, also while walking in Chinatown. 

Though she didn’t suffer serious injuries, she said she believed it was an intentional and targeted attack. 

Kami said: “When I’m in the city centre, people see me and often choose to hide away.” 

“For me, the harm is heartfelt. After all, to be ridiculed and discriminated against as a nation is different from being ridiculed as an individual. The feeling is totally different.” 

Another Manchester student from China, who chose not to be named, said she felt humiliated while shopping with friends: “A group of girls [walked] towards me until one of them was right in front of me. 

“She saw me and was so scared that she jumped half a metre in the air.” 

Several Chinese students interviewed by The Mancunion said that face masks were often a point of friction. 

In many countries in Asia, wearing a protective face mask is common during epidemics or flu seasons. 

Headlines were made recently when the Manchester Chinese Centre said they had received multiple complaints of bullying in the past month. 

The Director of the centre, Jenny Wong, said that many young people had been the victim of racist attacks at school. 

Wong said: “A young girl from North Manchester came home in tears. She said, ‘My best friend doesn’t want to play with me anymore because her mum told her not to. The Chinese carry the virus.’” 

Manchester students also pointed to conspiracy theories surrounding the virus, including those that blame public hygiene and ‘exotic’ diets for the outbreak. The Sun newspaper submitted a correction to a story last week that falsely claimed the epidemic was linked to the consumption of bats.

Final year anthropology student, Rae Qiu, said she found the media coverage of the outbreak regrettable. 

“If you go on Chinese social media, there’s another side of the story that you don’t see represented on western media – a story of regular folk working through their misfortunes with agency and strength. It’s a pity that only fear and stigma get amplified.”

At the time of publication, worldwide infections have totalled around 80,000. More than 78,000 of those infections are within China. Around 2,770 people have died, 2,715 within China. 

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