Chinese international students face double whammy of disease and discrimination
2020-03-18 10:08     Source : People's Daily Online

There are now 463 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City, the New York Post reported on March 16. Schools, restaurants, and some public facilities have been told to close. Along with fear and anxiety, discrimination against Chinese people is also spreading across the city, with members of the Chinese community reporting several such incidents.

One New York University (NYU) student was recently accosted with the comment "Oh my god, that's what corona looks like!" While walking near Bryant Park. As this tense situation continues to escalate quickly, Chinese students are finding themselves going through a difficult time this semester, which all started when they first came back to school in January.

The year of the rat, the first of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, and the start of a new decade should have marked a fresh start. But for Chinese students, when it was time to return to the US, traveling home for winter break may have been a gamble too far.

Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar, and this year's date for the holiday was unusually early. Because of this, most Chinese international students planned to celebrate this important festival at home with their families in China. For many of them, it was supposed to be the first Chinese New Year that they were able to spend at home since starting their studies abroad.

However, the outbreak of coronavirus crushed these hopes for many. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)" on Jan 30, 2020, showing just how serious this new disease was.

With thousands of confirmed cases in China, Chinese international students face unusual challenges going back to school this semester. The Chinese government issued an order blocking all main routes of transportation in Wuhan, and later the whole of Hubei Province, responding to the quickly spreading virus which was found to be contagious through person-to-person contact.

Charlotte Liao, a junior at New York University, had her flight from Wuhan to New York canceled because of the virus. "This is the first time I couldn't help but cry when parting with my parents at the airport since I came to the US for high school six years ago," said Liao, who had to switch to an earlier flight and spend the holiday alone on the airplane. Students living in cities where there were no direct flights had to book last-minute tickets with two or three layovers, since many flights were canceled. After arriving at the customs gate, they found that the usually long lines and waiting times had doubled due to extended questioning of students coming from China. "They asked me if I'd been to Wuhan in the past 14 days and I said yes," Liao said, recalling that it took her up to 10 minutes to pass customs, which normally takes about a minute. Later, on Jan 31, 2019, according to the New York Times article, the US border began barring "entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China."

Editor: 郑思慧