Coronavirus: Hong Kong students globally see racism but also kindness

By junior reporter Chloe Lau

Young Post junior reporter Chloe Lau asks Hongkongers around the world about how they have been treated during the Covid-19 outbreak

By junior reporter Chloe Lau |

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The global coronavirus outbreak has spawned both racism and kindness around the world.

As panic continues to build because of novel coronavirus Covid-19, incidents of racism against Asians have been reported around the world. A 23-year-old Singaporean man was allegedly attacked in London by men who told him, "we don't want your coronavirus in our country", while Asian-American businesses have suffered losses because of the current health situation. 

The increase of xenophobic incidents around the world made junior reporter Chloe Lau worry about how her Hong Kong friends who are studying abroad were doing. Had they been threatened in any way, attacked with racist language, or been the butt of jokes?

“All my classmates treat me like a Canadian instead of a Hongkonger,'' said Zambi Ho Sam-kiu, 14, a student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Vancouver, Canada. “They have welcomed me into their circle with open arms and I have not been racially discriminated against so far.”

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Ho also believes xenophobia is not as severe where she is staying. “In Canada, there are a lot of people with different nationalities,” she said. “I believe this is why people are more accepting of one another.”

Similarly, Curtis Yuen, a 18-year-old boarding student at Plymouth College in Devon, England, said he has not faced xenophobia. Instead, his school had implemented special measures during this period to provide a safe sanctuary for international students.

“Our school had an assembly which talked about the virus,” Yuen said, “telling us that racially discriminatory jokes would not be tolerated.”

His school offered an option for Asian students to stay on campus during the Easter holiday, he said. Customarily, students are required to return home during the holidays. 

Tourists wearing respiratory masks walk in downtown Rome.
Photo: AFP

However, a Form three student at a West Sussex school in the United Kingdom, who requested anonymity for thie piece, said that she had faced shocking behaviour.

 “People physically scoot away from me when I walk in the hallways now,” she said over the phone, in Cantonese. “Some foreign pupils always ask me if I have the coronavirus, and I’m sick of it.”

“Before the coronavirus outbreak, Asians were already made fun of by other students, with some saying that we enjoy eating dog meat,” she added. “But it has worsened in the last few weeks. Apart from [an] assembly, the school hasn't taken any further action to solve the problem of [bullying].” 

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Chow Hei-yiu, 18, who attends school in Melbourne, Australia, said she has continued to see to normal behaviour from her classmates and locals towards people of Chinese ancestry. But, she added, she witnessed a horrific exchange on a public bus recently.

The driver had asked a group of apparently intoxicated high school students to get off, but they refused, Chow said. “There was a Chinese passenger on the bus, and the students told her to go back to China and to stop spreading the disease there.” 

Eventually fellow passengers tossed the troublemakers off the bus, and even apologised for the students’ lurid behavior, she said.

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Finally, Kristy Chow, a 14-year-old student at Interlake High School in Bellevue, Washington, said she had not faced any discomfort or discrimination at school. However, she said that she feels strongly about the xenophobia occurring around the world.

“I think it’s pretty insulting to us,” she said. “People judge too quickly, [making] racist remarks [about] us.”

Like Yuen, Chow said her school had also taken measures to protect Asian students.

“At school, racism is taken very seriously,” Chow said. They look into the matter deeply and give really harsh punishments if it happens.”