Expatriate communities and foreigners in mainland China are experiencing discrimination while the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the world.
In a series of cartoons posted to a WeChat blog 锦鲤青年 (Koi Youth jǐnlǐ qīngnián), which has since been deleted, foreigners were thrown into garbage bins to be sorted and disinfected by people in hazmat suits for the offenses they’ve allegedly committed.
Earlier today I RT an anti-foreigner comic that had been circulating around China. Here is the entire comic put in a video format with English translations of the Chinese characters if you are interested in knowing what it says pic.twitter.com/qKjoq5pXVb
— Matt (宁天雄） (@hunansoninlaw) April 6, 2020
According to ABC News, it was titled, “An Illustrated Handbook on How to Sort Foreign Garbage.”
In a Twitter thread from Paul Mozur, a Shanghai-based tech reporter for the New York Times, he said he was called “洋垃圾/foreign trash while quietly eating at a restaurant.” He shared screenshots of the cartoons, condemning them for the “nasty sentiment” they inflame.
In Hefei two weeks ago I was called 洋垃圾/foreign trash while quietly eating at a restaurant. These cartoons inflame already nasty sentiment. Below we have a guy who has been in China a long time, but secretly criticizes the country online. pic.twitter.com/K6XcCqGw21
— Paul Mozur 孟建国 (@paulmozur) April 6, 2020
A final cartoon of the worker kicking away the trash can. The xenophobia is ugly and revolting, and has been flourishing online in various forms. Not a ton of government effort to walk it back. Wonder how much they can walk back when it’s all over. pic.twitter.com/Ncz58ZJvSh
— Paul Mozur 孟建国 (@paulmozur) April 6, 2020
Supchina, wrote about the cartoons as well, with more screenshots including where each foreigner was thrown. They reported the original drawing having nine categories, with some referencing recent news and incidents of foreigners’ misconduct in China.
For foreigners refusing to wear face masks, they are thrown into the wet trash; in regard to the incident in Xi’an, where a Morrocan tourist was deported for throwing his cellphone at healthcare workers who told him to wear a mask and refusing to obey the COVID-19 prevention orders.
A basketball player who ordered food and threatened to break quarantine if it wasn’t delivered to him, in reference to former NBA player Joe Young (who offered an apology), went into the recyclable trash for “‘abusing his privilege’ but having the chance to be ‘educated’ given his value to the Chinese team he plays for.”
The Australian woman who was fired and deported for breaking quarantine to go for a jog (who is also ethnically Chinese), would go into the recyclable trash.
The foreigners who tested positive for COVID-19 and attacked health workers were thrown into hazardous trash, referencing the nurse who was bitten by a Nigerian patient and would be charged after he recovered.
The foreigners who cut in line for COVID-19 testing and told the Chinese civilians to “get out,” go into the hazard trash to be deported immediately. Referencing the American tourists in Qingdao who cut the lines. They have also reportedly offered an apology for the incident, according to a Global Times tweet.
SupChina reported that the cartoonist wrote a concluding statement:
“China has contributed tremendously to the world during the crisis and sent supplies to virus-stricken countries. Some “foreign trash” have taken China’s kindness for granted! But you need to realize that it’s not our obligation to help you!”
We don’t discriminate against any foreigners but at the same time, we will never condone any misconduct by foreigners.”
ABC News states that this is a common occurrence where a foreigner is portrayed as a threat to public safety, reminding readers of a 2016 public awareness campaign in Beijing “cautioning Chinese citizens against dating foreigners, who they claimed could turn out to be spies.”
According to the Guardian, speculation on the bigotry may be because of China’s closed borders to foreign nationals last week.
However, with the increasing number of imported cases, xenophobia surrounding foreigners and expats living in China has also gone up. More news of restaurants, gyms or markets, hotels, and shops refusing to serve “foreign friends” grow. As was the situation for Jim Boyce, a Beijing-based restaurant reviewer.
“We do not accept foreign friends…”
Just learned this sign is posted in a shop in our Beijing apartment complex. Pass that place every day but have never gone inside. Guess I never will! pic.twitter.com/P371mVQedj
— J Boyce (@beijingboyce) March 23, 2020
As well as RF Parsley, a Beijing-based expat, who posted a video of himself being refused service in a barbershop.
Canada national Kyle Hadfield who lived in China for 14 years, runs an online group for expats, and whose wife and daughter are also Chinese, considers China his home. He confirms a surge in the animosity towards foreigners and expats during the outbreak, noting that people would weave or walk away from him on the streets and in elevators.
“When a Chinese person overseas has a sign saying, ‘I am not a virus’, I kind of feel like I want to wear the same sign here,” Hadfield said.
The Guardian stated that despite the treatment, several foreign residents stressed that their experiences were not to the level of the Asians in the US and around the world who’ve been attacked or experienced racial slurs. It wrote: “Bill Aitchison, 49, who is originally from the UK and lives between Xiamen and Nanjing, said: ‘I haven’t been attacked and haven’t heard of any foreigners being attacked… but the virus has unleashed some ugly sentiments. When borders close and walls go up, it seems people everywhere are apt to see the virus in those who are unfamiliar.’”
In the case of Africans in China, the treatment is much harsher and are blamed for bringing the virus to the country.
In an NTD News YouTube video, on Wednesday, Africans were evicted by their landlords from their homes in Guangzhou and forced to stay on the streets. As they drag their luggage through the streets, one of the people said, “We’re just walking on the road. They can’t give us a house, they can’t give us a hotel, they cannot provide a place we can stay.”
A Guangzhou resident going by the name of Mr. Hu spoke about the discrimination saying, “Appartments won’t be rented to black people anymore, not to foreigners, you don’t see so many black people in Sanyuanli district now. I do not know where they have gone.”
The video also shows a tweet from a citizen who called the Africans sitting on the street “a potential safety threat, and a virus transmission hazard!” It continued, “Guangzhou is likely going to be a catalyst that ignites southern China!”
— 冷山时评 (@goodrick8964) April 8, 2020
According to the South China Morning Post, despite the reported 111 imported cases discovered in Guangzhou, of 86 being Chinese citizen returnees and only 16 from various countries in Africa, the discrimination erupted towards those living in Sanheli, a neighborhood in Yuexiu, or “Little Africa.”
The incident with the Nigerian patient only fueled the outcry of racist and bigoted remarks towards the Africans in Guangzhou, even developing a hashtag in a process #广州三元里 (#GuangzhouSanyuanli), according to SupChina.