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Taiwanese attacked in Russia as Asian-phobia ramps up

Fears over the novel coronavirus epidemic have led to a surge in racially motivated attacks abroad

Taiwanese students have been picked on in Russia due to coronavirus outbreak. (Pixabay photo)

Taiwanese students have been picked on in Russia due to coronavirus outbreak. (Pixabay photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) epidemic continues to spread worldwide, an emerging fear of Asian people has led to Taiwanese students being assaulted in Moscow.

Ever since the Wuhan virus started in December, there has been a rising number of coronavirus-related attacks on Asians in foreign countries. Following news of Chinese tourists being spat on in Italy, two Taiwanese students in Russia have shared their stories.

One of the students, surnamed Tsai (蔡), said he was attacked on a subway train in Moscow for wearing a mask and having Asian looks. He said he was picked on by a Russian male as soon as he entered the train compartment and was verbally assaulted.

Tsai said it seemed the man mistook him for being a Chinese national and called him a "virus." He added the man repeatedly struck him around the head while the other passengers watched on.

Tsai immediately left the train, but the man continued to curse at him through the windows. The student said he was shocked and disappointed by the unfriendliness of locals, who he said blatantly avoid him on the streets or at supermarkets, reported ETtoday.

Another Taiwanese student, surnamed Lee (李), said that he was harassed on Monday (Feb. 3) near Saint-Petersburg State University, where he studies. Lee said he was approached by a local, who then deliberately spilled juice all over his jacket.

Lee said he tried to ask for help, in Russian, but no passersby stopped. He added that he was afraid to travel on his own and only feels safe when accompanied by his Russian friends.

Similar incidents have taken place in Vietnam. According to media reports, two Taiwanese women were denied access to the South Asian country because they were thought to be Chinese. They said the immigration officers insisted they returned to their country despite their efforts to explain.

The women said they were told by local hotel staff that since their Taiwanese passports have “Republic of China” printed on the cover, it is misleading for most Vietnamese. They said that although the Taiwan government has urged foreign countries to discourage coronavirus-induced discrimination, it remains prevalent.