As a Chinese citizen, I find it heart-breaking to watch the events brought about by the coronavirus epidemic, and even harder to receive news of racism towards Chinese people and indifferent political commentaries toward the Chinese government. As we discuss this event as a community, it is important to remember that these are actual human lives whose experiences we are speaking of, and we should bring less judgement and more sympathy to the people of China.[d][e][f]
Both Chinese citizens and foreign media have called out Chinese Authorities regarding its media cover-up of the epidemic and the inadequate medical supplies inside Chinese hospitals. However, I believe that this is not the time to focus our effort on political commentaries against the Chinese government. As I write this article, tens of millions people are quarantined under lockdown in Wuhan while millions more are forced to quit all daily activities, including my own grandparents, uncles and cousins in Beijing. I don’t remember a Chinese New Year filled with more uncertainty and desperation than the one we’ve just had—it is precisely because of the administrative flaws of the CCP that makes the situation all the more difficult for the people of China. More than anything, they need the world to abandon its political agendas towards a government whose decisions they cannot control, and support its people with sympathy and aid.
There are videos online capturing hundreds of patients lined up miles outside of the hospital door, waiting for a single diagnosis. According to BBC news, the doctors and nurses of Wuhan work over 20-hour shifts under make-shift protective suits and facemasks comprised of saran wraps they’ve torn from hospital beds, with no food, no bathroom breaks, and deep rubber band scars carved onto their faces. Some people spoke critically of the three bodies left unattended in a Wuhan hospital, but what they miss is that there are thousands more who are living, waiting to be seen, cammed so tightly into emergency rooms that there are no chairs left for them. For the medical staff fighting on the front line inside Chinese hospitals, every second is a matter of life and death. Entire families in Wuhan have passed away in the span of two weeks over Chinese New Year—these events are traumatizing, personal, and deserving of solidarity from people all around the world.
The last thing we can do is to falsely associate coronavirus with race. In the past week, several students in our own community expressed the feeling that others avoided them simply because they are ethnically Chinese. Although the virus itself originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, none of the patients infected by the virus after round two of transmission need to have come in contact with the market—or even Wuhan—at all. Like any other virus, the risk of being infected by the coronavirus is dependent on geography, human transportation and physical contact. Whether instances of racism indeed took place on campus or simply infiltrated our minds through recent media reports, it is an issue we should be aware of and sensitive towards. The virus is not a “Chinese virus”—no one has a choice in being inflected, and assumptions and prejudices within our communities will only fracture us before the disease even comes.
Finally, is China without hope? Quite the contrary, ordinary Chinese citizens of all ages and walks of life are coming together to defy the consequences of coronavirus. Volunteer groups formed all over the country to buy facemasks, protective suits and send necessities to families who are quarantined in their apartments. A young vlogger in Wuhan documented a restaurant owner who has been sending free meals to hospitals since the first day of lockdown. On a sunny day last week, an elderly woman was pictured practicing Tai-Chi out in a park in Wuhan while couples brought their children on a stroll with facemasks. These are the people who refuse to be defined by the virus, people whose courage and integrity we should respect. I hope that reading the experiences of these people—my people—takes away some of the fears and assumptions that our community has had, so that we can stand in solidarity with those around the world who are affected by this epidemic. [g][h][i]
Sources: CNN, BBC news, 2020. Weibo 2020.