TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As China tries to shift the blame for the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to other countries, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is fanning the flames of xenophobia.
As coronavirus cases rapidly rose in China, the government on Feb. 19 changed its counting scheme to greatly reduce the number of reported cases by excluding asymptomatic patients.
After cutting down on testing, releasing patients early, and underreporting cases, the government began phasing out its disclosure of new domestic cases. It completed the process on March 18, when it declared zero new cases.
Believing China's claim to have conquered the disease in record time, Chinese and foreigners alike fled to what they perceived as a safe haven as the virus raced across the globe. Many of the new arrivals were found to be infected and soon, China began reporting a spike in imported cases.
Despite the fact that 90 percent of the new imported cases were Chinese citizens, Beijing fixated on foreign nationals as the scapegoat. Although earlier in the crisis, China had compared Israel's ban of Chinese travelers to the Holocaust, Beijing on March 28 announced a ban on all foreigners, even those with valid visas and residence permits.
Even before the ban went into effect, reports of discriminatory treatment of foreigners in China began to skyrocket. Many foreigners complained about being forced to pay exorbitant fees to live in squalid quarantine facilities.
Many foreigners also showed videos of being turned away from malls, markets, exhibitions, restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. In many cases, signs have started to surface in cities such as Beijing refusing entry to "non-Chinese customers."
Previously, on Feb. 19, China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters, allegedly for a column that labeled the authoritarian country as the "real sick man of Asia." On March 16, Beijing announced that it was expelling even more foreign journalists, including all those The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post who were stationed in China.
On April 2, a cartoon appeared on the WeChat blog Koi Youth (锦鲤青年) showing Chinese sanitation workers sorting "foreign trash" based on the offenses they had allegedly committed. In the top frame, a caucasian, blond-haired foreigner who had refused to wear a surgical face mask is tossed into the "wet trash" bin.
"Came to China to take refuge but did not wear a mask on the street and insulted epidemic prevention staff." (WeChat, Koi Youth screenshot)
In the second frame, a basketball player of African descent has been caught ordering food late at night from a quarantine hotel. The waste collectors toss this man into the "recyclable trash" bin, but he is retained to be "educated" so he can serve on the country's basketball team.
The cartoon refers to in incident in which 27-year-old former NBA player Joe Young allegedly demanded he be brought food at 3 a.m. in the morning, even threatening break quarantine to go out and pick it up himself. Young had been undergoing quarantine in order to resume play with the Nanjing Monkey Kings and later apologized for the incident.
Seven more frames follow, alternating between stereotypical "white" and "black" characters. Alleged foreign vices cited for punishment included breaking quarantine rules, illegally entering China, scamming Chinese women for sex and money, posting anti-China videos online, spreading the coronavirus to Chinese health workers, and cutting in line.
The last is the most ironic, as Chinese tourists are notorious worldwide for cutting in line. Many of the cartoons allude to recent viral videos and Chinese state-run news articles that depict foreigners as being disrespectful of Chinese or violating various epidemic prevention regulations.
Foreigner portrayed barking like a dog in trash bin. (WeChat, Koi Youth screenshot)
Another foreigner tossed into recycling bin. (WeChat, Koi Youth screenshot)