Shadow of Coronavirus looms over London’s Chinese community

By Joe Ives
March 10 2020, 2.30

Members of south west London’s Chinese community have reported increasing fears of racism as anxiety over the outbreak of Coronavirus grows.

Michelle, 65, who did not want to give her full name, is originally from Hong Kong. Recently her son was walking home after work near Victoria station when an attacker accosted him and said: “Get lost, go back to China! Don’t carry the virus to our country”.

“Normally everybody is quite polite in London”, said Michelle. “After the outbreak, some extreme people will attack Chinese people.”

“I worry, I worry about my children. They are grown-up children but I still worry about them. So I told them if someone says something just walk away.

“It feels very unfair, especially for Asian people. It doesn’t matter if you are Chinese, Singaporean or Korean. If they see your skin they will say something to you.”

“The government need to explain that this is racist behaviour”.

It’s not just direct attacks that have made the city feel less welcoming for some members of the British Chinese community.

Michelle described an event on a London bus this week: “As soon as I sat next to someone she quickly packed everything up and walked away. It made me feel very uncomfortable.

“She didn’t say anything but you can feel it. I know what’s happening.”

Julia Chantry, 56, a teacher from West Dulwich, sent a photo of support to her niece who had described feeling ostracised on public transport.  In the image, Julia holds a piece of paper which reads: “I am Malaysian. I have never been to China for the last 12 years! Please do not come close to me if you are not well!”

Mrs Chantry said: “She didn’t even cough, but no one wanted to stand near or sit next to her.”

Julia Chantry poses with a placard which reads: "I am Malaysian. I have never been to China for the last 12 years! Please do not come close to me if you are not well! Thank you."
JULIA CHANTRY: “It didn’t happen to me but it does happen to others. So to cheer them up I posted this photo”

Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with a racially aggravated assault on a Singaporean student which occurred on February 24. Jonathan Mok, 23, described being beaten on Oxford Street by attackers who said: “I don’t want your Coronavirus in my country.”

Besides signs of rising hostility, members of the British Chinese community also have to deal with the same worries as all other Londoners. On March 6 Lambeth Chinese Community Association saw just over 20 people turn out for their AGM, around a third of the usual attendance, with concern over Coronavirus keeping many members away.

Lambeth Chinese Community Association building on street front.
TOUGH TIMES: Lambeth Chinese Community Association

The association has also had to cut back its services in the community as well as a trip scheduled for May.

“We are very small and we’re struggling a bit,” said volunteer Teresa Ng, 71. With the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK rising above 160 on Friday, the situation does not look set to improve soon.

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