A Paris court convicted four young adults of “public insult of racist nature and incitement to commit a crime” after they blamed Chinese people for COVID-19 on Twitter.
What they did: The French students, aged 19-24, posted the racist tweets after President Emmanuel Macron announced a second round of home quarantine rules last October.
- “Put me in a cage with a Chinese, I want to have fun with him, break him, I want to see all hope in his eyes fade before me,” one of them tweeted, according to RFI.
- In March, the students went to a trial initiated by a special unit of the Association des Jeunes Chinois de France (Association of Young Chinese of France or AJCF), which was launched in January to fight online hate.
- On Wednesday, all four were sentenced to two days of civic education and ordered to pay 250 euros ($300) to each of the seven plaintiffs, as well as 1,000 euros ($1,223) in fines, according to AFP.
- A fifth student involved in the case was absolved of the accusations.
Why this matters: The escalation of anti-Asian sentiment amid the coronavirus pandemic has not only been reported in the U.S. but in other Western countries, too.
- In May 2020, a study by France’s Institute of National Demographic Studies found that the coronavirus pandemic “revealed new dimensions of anti-Asian racism” in the country.
- In the March hearing, one of the students argued that they only wanted “to make my friends laugh,” according to France 24.
- AJCF President Laetitia Chhiv described her shock at seeing the tweets, which she described as a “normalized” form of racism.
- After Wednesday’s verdict, AJCF lawyer Soc Lam told CNN that the trial had “brought the public and the judges’ attention on this phenomenon, so that those messages of hate stop.”
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