Erin Wen Ai Chew, national convener for the Asian Australian Alliance, told news.com.au that more than 300 incidents of racism had been reported as part of a coronavirus racism incident survey.
In one of the reports, one participant said they had been confronted by an older woman who spat at them and said that Chinese people were “f***ing filthy animals who eat bats”.
Many of the incidents happen while the people are simply taking a walk or waiting for public transport.
One participant said their elderly mother was confronted by a white male who started yelling at her and blaming her for the virus. He blocked her path while she was taking a walk and wouldn’t let her pass until some passers-by intervened.
Another person said they were walking their dog with their mother when they heard a dog barking from someone’s yard. A man who was getting out of his car yelled: “your dog is upsetting my dog, I’ll let him out and f***ing destroy yours”, adding “f***ing Asians”.
Buses also seem to be a common location for abuse.
One person says they saw a bus driver being told to “go back to where you came from” and “you’re bringing the virus here”.
Another described being shouted at by a couple to “go back to China” while walking to a bus stop. The couple followed the person on to the bus and continued shouting and swearing at them. The person said they were not from China but the couple kept staring at them until eventually they got off the bus.
A separate person was called “Covid” by a guy while waiting at a bus stop after work. The man kept harassing the person, telling them to sit down and trying to get them to take a different bus, the person eventually pointed an umbrella in his face to try to get him to stop harassing them.
“After reading 20 to 30 of these stories, it started to make me feel upset and depressed that my fellow Asian Australians are experiencing all this,” Ms Chew said.
“Being racially attacked is a very lonesome and traumatic experience – it doesn’t matter about the severity, it’s the stunned feeling of being violated and treated differently because of who you are.”
Ms Chew said it was important to remember that COVID-19 was not the cause of racism in Australia, but was a symptom of the larger issue of racism in Australia.
“It really demonstrates how insidious the racism is and how COVID-19 has been used as an excuse for people to act on their racist intentions,” she said.
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The racism survey is a collaboration between the Asian Australian Alliance, Being Asian Australian, think tank Per Capita policy analyst and writer Osmond Chiu, Democracy in Colour and Diversity Arts Australia.
More than 60 of those surveyed said the racism they experienced was usually in the form of racial slurs, with more than 40 per cent happening on public streets.
The abuse usually involved being blaming for the virus, being called “ching chong”, being told to stop eating “bats, dogs etc” and being told to “go back to China”.
Ms Chew said many Asian Australians have expressed how lonely, confused and stunned they felt about being at the receiving end of the abuse. Many have also expressed how they no longer feel accepted in Australia.
Incidents of racism seem to have increased since the coronavirus pandemic, which US President Donald Trump and some media outlets have described as the “Chinese virus”.
One Sydney woman Helen, who came to Australia as a political refugee after the Tiananmen Square massacre, has told of being spat on while walking in the street.
“I felt terribly sorry for these people attacking on me and they are ignorant and they have no idea where I come from and who I am,” Helen told Today.
“I came here 30 years ago, as a political refugee, and I was a student leader in Tiananmen Square, and some of my friends and also students died in my arms. I survived. And little do they know, these ‘effing Chinese’ can’t go back to China, these ‘effing Chinese’ suffer the same fate as everyone else. And then these ‘effing Chinese’ called Australia home for 30 years.”
In Melbourne, vandals graffitied a family’s home two nights in a row, spray painting “COVID-19 China die” on a garage door and smashing a window.
Two female international students were also verbally abused and physically assaulted in a Melbourne CBD street by two women, with one being kicked to the ground.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said his message to those being racist were to “stop it”.
“Now is a time to support each other and I would remind everyone that it was Chinese Australians in particular that provided one of the greatest defences we had in those early weeks,” he told reporters last month.
“They were the ones who first went into self-isolation, they were the ones who were returning from family visits up into China and they were coming home, and it was through their care, it was through their commitment, their patience that actually Australia was protected in their first wave.
“I deplore that sort of behaviour against any Australian regardless of their ethnicity or their religion or whatever it happens to be. And I think that is the view of all Australians. So we have to call that sort of thing out. It’s not on.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday the coronavirus pandemic had unleashed “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” and appealed for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally”.
The UN chief said “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred”.
Mr Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on “digital literacy” at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences”.
He called on the media, especially social media, to “remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content,” on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as “models of mutual respect”.
“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Mr Guterres said.
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