Stop the rising anti-Sinoism

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

The fear, or phobia of the Chinese due to the increasing incidence and death of people infected with the new coronavirus, has taken the nature of anti-Chinese attitude and behavior. This is a dangerous trend that our government and community and religious leaders should stop before they get worse. Fear of the virus should not be taken against the victims much less against people as a race.

Racism in all its forms is anti-people. It is a practice of looking down or ostracizing people for their birth rather than for their behavior. The world has seen the unnecessary deaths of millions due to racism in the prison camps in Europe and Asia. World War II was thought to have settled the issue, but it seems the undercurrents continue to emerge when a trigger point is reached.

The new virus from mainland China is spreading around the world, fanning anti-Chinese sentiments with calls for a full travel ban on Chinese visitors, among others by almost all countries of the world. Borders are closed, even in China provinces. Hong Kong had sealed its borders against their fellow Chinese. However, this is necessary to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

Even in places where the threat is the least possible, actions have gone beyond reasonable defense. Reports say that restaurants in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam have refused to accept mainland Chinese customers. Indonesians marched to a hotel and called on Chinese guests there to leave. French and Australian newspapers were criticized for racist headlines. Chinese and other Asians in Europe, the US, Asia, and the Pacific complain of racism.

Close to home, in Cebu on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 2, 2020, a netizen posted on Facebook photos of nine foreign nationals (five men and four women), insinuating that they were being mistreated. “This how Cebu treated Chinese nationals”. After the post gathered 1,800 reactions and shared more than 4,500 times, the post disappeared in 45 minutes. The damage to Cebu had been done.

This anti-Chinese reaction is probably due to a negative attitude toward the Chinese government that had been elbowing Filipinos and showing off its “super-power status” and wealth. The Chinese government’s bully behavior in the Philippine sea does not gain friendship but antagonism. Indeed, the growing anti-Sinosm developed as China boasts of its global strength in the areas of trade, political issues, and military strength. Recent surveys in the Philippines shows Filipinos prefer the United States but not China.

Another report said that in a Facebook announcement, Tenno Ramen, a Japanese noodle restaurant in Hong Kong, refused to serve customers from the Chinese mainland. Facebook postings also show a rising anti-Chinese sentiment including public transport drivers refusing to take anybody that looks like a Chinese. The problem is that some people, like Filipinos and other Asians look like Chinese.

Citizens in other countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia have signed petitions to ban every Chinese visitor, to the horror of tourism companies. We have not done so yet, but there is the same indication with the demand for the restrictions on Chinese workers and tourists in gambling casinos.

President Rodrigo Duterte had initially refused to ban the entry of Chinese nationals but as the incidence of deaths and infections increased, he had to approve a ban while appealing (February 4) to stop this “Sinophobia” that is turning into anti-Sinoism.

The President temporarily banned the “entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visa issued by the Philippine government, directly coming from China and its Special Administrative Regions… and those who had been to China within 14 days prior to their arrival in the Philippines.” He included those who “within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, has been to China and its Special Administrative Regions.”

He also banned Filipinos from going to China and its administrative regions, like Hong Kong and Macau.

These are precautionary measures and I think should not be misunderstood as a ban on a Chinese simply because he is Chinese whose mother country is reeling from this new virus nor should fuel the idea that China is engaged in bio-warfare as lately insinuated in a Congressional hearing.

Nor should China charge that the United States is fanning anti-Sinoism. China should realize it needs friends and all the help it can get.