'Coronaracism' reported on campus

Chinese residents in Newcastle have spoken about their distressing experiences in the city

Grace Dean
7th February 2020
Image: NUSU

A series of racial harassment incidents has been reported in Newcastle in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to LBC News, one Newcastle University student posted on Facebook:

“This is offensive and prejudice action exists in Newcastle. A stranger spat on me when I was walking back to student dormitory, I did not offend him, just normal walking (no face mask).

“Recently, my Chinese classmates and I received some rude and cruel comments from some students or strangers. A student asked my classmate whether she was Chinese or not, then he put on a face mask and left immediately in the Robinson Library for instance.

"I think these actions hurt me, hurt us, Chinese students. We are just Chinese students, innocent human beings. I understand that people are panic [sic] about the Coronavirus, but we are not the virus. We are afraid to go to school, we are afraid to be attacked by some strangers on the way to class."

The student reported the incident to the police.

Another student told the Courier:

“When I was on my way to the Metro station, I heard three English girls saying “here comes a Chinese virus”, and they hid their faces under the jumpers. I was jolly disappointed and sad about being in such a situation as I don't really think the virus is an excuse for racial discrimination. It's kind of showing me that Orientals need to cover their eyes rather than noses and mouths because it seems that people care more about if you're Oriental than whether you're carrying the virus or not.”

In a video shared by the manager of a Chinese takeaway in Newcastle, two teenage girls can be seen shielding their faces as they walk past a group of Chinese people in an arcade. The manager said:

"I shouldn't have to say this but none of my staff have been back to China for 2.5 years and two of us had never even heard of Wuhan til last week.

"It's actually at the point where my own friends who are British-born who've never stepped foot in China are concerned about coughing in public.

"Welcome to being Chinese for the foreseeable future. Really looking forward to having to explain to my four-year-old daughter why people are staring at us.

"Students are getting beaten up in and around Newcastle. They're getting spat at, which is disgusting, outside universities and Chinese supermarkets.”

Talking to LBC, the manager further discussed the financial impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on local businesses:

"I'd say business was down 25 per cent last week. Others were about 50 per cent down. And suppliers are all feeling the same.”

A student from Singapore told the Courier: 

“The other day I walked out of my front door and a group of teenagers crossed my path, two girls and two boys. One of the girls saw me and started covering her mouth and she leaned over to tell the other girl, but I saw that and decided I wasn’t going to let that slide outside my front door. So I said ‘I will sneeze on you’ as intimidatingly as possible and they screamed and ran off.”

Newcastle Central Labour MP Chi Onwurah described being "really saddened" to hear of reports of racial harassment. She said:

"Newcastle is united against racism and discrimination…racism is a deadly disease but fortunately it is not contagious."

Northumbria Police Chief Inspector Alan Pitchford said:

"We are aware of national reports of increases in hate crime against the Chinese community following the publicity of the Coronavirus.

"We have not had any significant increases in hate crime in our region but we have a positive relationship with our Chinese communities and remain in regular contact to offer them advice.”

The UK's first British-Chinese MP, Alan Mak, commented on the situation:

"Discrimination and prejudice against the British-Chinese community, or any minority group, at any time is unacceptable...The British-Chinese community has nothing to do with the virus breaking out in Wuhan."

Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Chris Day released an email addressing these incidents, which you can read about here.

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AUTHOR: Grace Dean
Editor-in-Chief of the Courier 2019/20, News Editor 2018/19, writer since 2016 and German & Business graduate. I've written for all of our sections, but particularly enjoy writing breaking news and data-based investigative pieces. Best known in the office for making tea and blasting out James Blunt. Twitter: @graceldean

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