Australian-based journalist Louisa Lim was racially harassed at a Chinese restaurant while visiting Auckland, New Zealand, to speak about anti-Asian racism at an event.
Lim, who is half-Chinese, was invited to speak at the Auckland Writers Festival, where she joined the panel “Seeing Yellow” to discuss the “yellow peril” narrative and the rise of racism against Asians since the COVID-19 pandemic.
A day before the event, Lim visited a Chinese noodle shop near Aotea Square, where she encountered two men speaking offensively.
“It must have been 7:30 p.m., and I was just eating noodles, and these two guys came in and they were quite loud,” Lim told the Herald. “And one of them said really loudly, ‘A good Asian is a contradiction in terms.’”
When Lim confronted them, they reportedly discounted the comment as a joke and was questioned why she was offended.
“And at a certain point, I said to him, ‘I hear that you’re not apologizing to me, and I hear that you understand that it was racist and you’re not sorry’,” Lim said, to which the men told her to “f*ck off.”
A woman separate from the incident then chimed in and asked Lim where she was from. When the journalist replied, the woman said, “F*ck off, go back to Australia.”
“In that moment, I was like five years old, in the playground in London, hearing kids shouting at me ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees,’” Lim said, according to Stuff. “That’s when you realize that there are spaces that you didn’t know that were not yours to enter. And they’re everywhere, even in Chinese restaurants.”
Lim, who spoke about the incident at the panel, also shared the incident on Instagram and Twitter.
“Backstage before our Seeing Yellow panel,” Lim wrote along with a photo of her and her co-panelists. “Sadly fitting to do it the day after I was racially harassed in Auckland…”
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, who was also a guest speaker at the writers festival, said he admired Lim’s bravery for confronting the racist men.
“It’s unfortunate no one stood with her. It was a surprise to us, especially since this happened in a Chinese restaurant,” Foon said, according to the Herald. “I don’t condone this awful racist behavior – it says we still have a lot to do.”
Lim is a former correspondent for the BBC and NPR. Her work has also been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian.