As Australia experiences a wave of racism directed towards Chinese people as a result of the coronavirus, students and teachers have started posting messages of support for their peers stranded overseas or quarantined in Wuhan.
More than 100,000 Chinese students are not able to start their university classes this semester after the government announced last week it would be extending the travel ban at least until February 22.
Many of them are in lockdown in Wuhan.
The virus has now spread to Africa, with Egypt reporting the first case on that continent, and the global death toll has passed 1500.
As the virus spreads quickly, so does misinformation.
Restaurants in Melbourne’s Chinatown have started to close because they’ve been abandoned by customers. In Western Australia, a staff member at Woolworths refused entry to an Asian man. And Ravenswood School for Girls, in Sydney, asked a Korean student to leave her dorm.
Online it is no different. Videos of Asians eating bats have been circulating over social media since news broke of the coronavirus. These are accompanied by false claims that this is how the virus spread.
In one viral tweet, an account posted a video of a woman eating bat with the comment, “When you eat bats and bamboo rats and s— and call it a ‘Chinese delicacy,’ why y’all be acting surprised when diseases like #coronavirus appear?”
None of these videos were filmed in Wuhan.
The racism directed at Asians has become so severe it has its own Wikipedia page.
Concerned about how this would be impacting Australian Chinese students, RMIT lecturer Marnie Badham said she helped start an online campaign to show them they were missed.
She invites people to write messages of support, and pose with them in selfies.
“We are missing our international students – an important part of our community at RMIT University,” she wrote on Facebook.
“Many are who are currently at home in China or in Melbourne self-quarantined due to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
“Our students are feeling the emotional toll of this new global health crisis and the racism that has begun to emerge”
Those wanting to show their support could take a selfie and post it to social media using #unmaskedselfiesinsolidarity, she wrote.
Many of the selfies shared so far have been heartfelt.
“We care. We miss you. Stay strong,” wrote author and academic Julienne Van Loon.
“This racism needs to stop. It’s not China’s fault,” wrote one student in Australia.
Others are short and simple.
“We are waiting for you,” wrote lecturer and artist Nik Pantazopoulos.
In response, students from Wuhan have been posting selfies back.
“I’m from Wuhan but I’m normal. Please treat me as an equal,” wrote one woman.
Another, Clyde Zhao, shared a picture of his hand in a surgical glove as he walked outside in the city.
“Love Wuhan, Miss Melbourne,” he wrote.
Another Chinese student said: “I hope this crisis will lead to mutual understanding, mutual help and solidarity.”
Helen Chen, who is currently in lockdown and studying at Australia National University previously told The New Daily Chinese international students were being attacked online because of the virus.
“I have witnessed heaps of hate. Directed at CCP, the Chinese people, and directly at me. The inability to separate the Chinese government and the Chinese people is very frustrating,” she said.
“The CCP and the Chinese people are two different entities. No one can choose which country they’re born into.
“The coronavirus outbreak has definitely been racialised in a way that other outbreaks never have.
“No one called H1N1 an American virus or Ebola a Congo virus. It’s like being diseased is a trait of the Chinese people or something.
“No one said the Americans or Congolese deserved H1N1/Ebola. It’s sad. And I can see how racism towards Chinese people is spilling over into the wider Asian community.”