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Tuesday, February 04, 2020, 11:01
Asians complain of virus-related bias
By Earle Gale in London and Chen Yingqun in Beijing
Tuesday, February 04, 2020, 11:01 By Earle Gale in London and Chen Yingqun in Beijing

An Asian girl wearing a face mask is seen walking on a street in Paris, France, on Jan 31, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

Asians living in France have taken to social media to complain about the way they have been treated since the novel coronavirus outbreak began.

Netizens have used the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I am not a virus), among others, to complain about discriminatory treatment on public transport, social media and in the street.

The apparent increase in anti-Asian sentiment followed the French newspaper Le Courier Picard using inflammatory headlines that included "Alerte jaune" (Yellow alert) and "Le peril jaune?" (Yellow peril?), the BBC reported.

We hope that the international community will understand the epidemic rationally and calmly, and make scientific and appropriate responses.

Hua Chunying, Spokesperson, Chinese Foreign Ministry

The broadcaster said there have been similar reports in the United Kingdom and in other countries of an increase in anti-Asian bias.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus is now a global health emergency, but no panic

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing on Monday that some irrational statements about the coronavirus outbreak in China have recently appeared in individual countries and media. China firmly opposes such remarks, she said.

"We hope that the international community will understand the epidemic rationally and calmly, and make scientific and appropriate responses," Hua said.

READ MORE: Relevant countries urged to see epidemic in rational, calm way

When called out, Le Courier Picard apologized for its headlines and admitted they were examples of the "worst Asian stereotypes".

Lou Chengwang took to Twitter to tell his French neighbors: "I'm Chinese, but I'm not a virus! I know everyone's scared of the virus but no prejudice, please."

Another social media user said people should "stop asking if we're dangerous if we cough while all the people around us are doing so".

Reuters reported that customers have frequently asked Pascal Corlier, the owner of a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, whether any of his serving staff are Chinese.

"There's a sort of unfounded psychosis setting in around the Asian community and Asian food," Corlier said, and that his revenues were about 40 percent lower compared with the same period last year.

While speaking at a Chinese New Year dinner on Saturday, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there have been some anti-Chinese sentiments in some countries due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Lee said that the coronavirus is a public health event, not a matter of ethnicity or nationality.

"China is doing its best to control the spread of the epidemic, including canceling all outbound tourist groups and making arrangements to bring back Hubei people from abroad. China is doing a responsible job," he said.

ALSO READ: Anti-China fake news will only hamper fight against virus

In Toronto, Canada, concerns about rising anti-Asian sentiment prompted city councilors and Chinese-Canadian community leaders to call a news conference last week to remind residents that people of Asian descent are no more likely to have the virus than anyone else.

French-born Sun-Lay Tan, who is of Chinese and Cambodian descent, said: "Racism against Asians is spreading even faster than the virus. I was sitting on the metro on my way to work and the person next to me edged a few centimeters away and put his scarf over his mouth. I was shocked."

Corlier said "people are panicking".

However, he added that it is hard to hold that against them.

"But they have to take a step back ... and look at the facts."

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