If China takes action against foreigners

Corona crisis in China: campaign against foreigners

Discrimination against foreigners increased sharply in China during the Corona crisis. The government is fueling fears of "imported virus cases".

Cherry blossom as a tourist attraction in a park in Beijing Photo: Ng Han Guan / ap

BEIJINGtaz | El Nido in the center of Beijing is one of the bars that well-heeled expats frequent: Located in a traditional hutong apartment building, Korean-inspired tacos and locally brewed IPA beer are served here. For a few days, however, a note has been warning visitors at the entrance: "Unfortunately, we have been instructed to only continue our operations if we do not accept non-Chinese customers."

One of the operators, himself a Canadian citizen, tries to justify himself: "There are a lot of security checks in our neighborhood, and of course the situation is generally very tense." There are no official instructions to turn away foreigners, but neighborhood committees and security guards are under pressure. to implement the order and not cause any trouble.

Social media is currently full of reports from foreign residents being turned away in supermarkets, mobbed on the street, or avoided on the sidewalks. Hotels, hairdressing salons and even residential complexes have banned foreign guests.

In mid-March, the German embassy in Beijing wrote in a circular email: “We also hear that foreigners are being asked more and more frequently about their date of entry into China. [...] So please carry your passport with you. "

Fear of "second virus wave"

China's authorities fear a second wave of the virus, which may be fueled by imported cases from abroad. On Wednesday, the National Health Commission announced the latest figures: 36 new infections, 35 of them from immigrants.

China closed its borders last Friday, although most international flight routes had already been canceled. Most of the foreigners based in China who had just left the country could not return. The radical isolationist is populist. Because up to 90 percent of all imported cases come from Chinese citizens who are not affected by the entry ban.

The virus is politicizing

But the narrative that the virus threat originates from foreigners is a welcome distraction for the central government from initially hushing up the virus threat. “Of course it is not the case that every foreigner is attacked here. That would be a clear exaggeration, ”says Anthony Tao of the online medium Sup China: "But there have been so many more cases of discrimination lately that we shouldn't just dismiss them as insignificant."

He hopes that the new xenophobia will disappear at the latest with the end of the pandemic. But: "Of course I have reasons to be skeptical." Especially since the USA and China politicized the virus. US President Donald Trump spoke of the “China virus” on several occasions and Beijing diplomats spread crude conspiracy theories that the US military might have brought the virus to China.