• Some Asian countries have petitions urging their government to ban Chinese tourists
  • Shops and hotels in east Asia have barred Chinese customers
  • Chinese in Toronto fear a repeat of the abuse they suffered in the 2003 SARS outbreak

The spread of coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, and killed at least 200 people in China and infected thousands of others, has triggered a wave of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese xenophobia across the world.

The virus has now spread to some 19 other countries, including the U.S. which now has five confirmed cases.

One of those cases was found at Arizona State University, or ASU, in Tempe, Ariz., which is witnessing growing anti-Asian sentiment.

"It's hysteria," a female student told Business Insider. "I cough in class and everybody looks at me. I'm paranoid of coughing."

Anti-Chinese bigotry has erupted within Asia itself, especially on social media.

In Indonesia, a hashtag called #TolakSementaraTurisChina (Temporarily Ban Chinese Tourists) has gone viral.

In Japan, the hashtag #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan has appeared on Twitter.

Reports that the virus likely originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, China that sells live animals have led many social media commenters to ridicule Chinese eating customs.

“Stop eating bats,” wrote one Twitter user in Thailand. “Not surprising that the Chinese are making new diseases,” another Thai user said.

Social media has also broadcast videos of East Asian people eating live rats, bats and frogs, etc.

In Singapore, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the government to prohibit Chinese from entering the country (despite the fact that ethnic Chinese represent at least 76% of the local population).

“Orientalist assumptions plus political distrust plus health concerns are a pretty powerful combination,” said Charlotte Setijadi, an anthropologist at Singapore Management University.

Businesses in Hong Kong and Vietnam have put up signs warning mainland Chinese customers not to enter their premises.

A sign outside a hotel in Danang, Vietnam, read: “Because your country is beginning [to] spread disease, we do not accept to serve the [guests] from China.”

Hundreds of thousands of people in South Korea and Malaysia have signed online petitions asking authorities to prohibit Chinese from visiting their countries.

In South Korea, signs reading “no Chinese allowed” have popped up on restaurant windows. A Korean casino said it will no longer allow tourist groups from China.

Samal Island, in the southern Philippines, has banned not only tourists from China and even people from other countries affected by the coronavirus.

“I think it is time to put a temporary ‘do not enter’ sign on our doorstep for visitors from China,” said Ralph Recto, a lawmaker in the Philippines.

“Some of the xenophobia is likely undergirded by broader political and economic tensions and anxieties related to China, which are interacting with more recent fears of contagion,” said Kristi Govella, an assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Chinese tourists in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia, confronted local residents holding a sign that read: “We, the West Sumatran communities, reject the visit of Chinese tourists.”

In York, just north of Toronto, Canada, a city with a large Asian population, 10,000 parents signed a petition to ban children who recently returned from China from their classrooms.

“This has to stop. Stop eating wild animals and then infecting everyone around you,” wrote one petitioner. “Stop the spread and quarantine yourselves or go back.”

The York school board condemned the petition.

“We are aware of an escalated level of concern and anxiety among families of Chinese heritage,” wrote York board chair Juanita Nathan and education director Louise Sirisko. “Individuals who make assumptions, even with positive intentions of safety, about the risk of others, request or demand quarantine can be seen as demonstrating bias and racism.”

Canada has three confirmed cases of the virus.

Toronto’s Chinatown businesses have reported a decline in business. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Chinese-Canadians may feel “somewhat targeted” because of the virus.

“My Twitter has just exploded with vitriol,” said Toronto resident Terri Chu. “But it’s just par for the course, growing up as a minority when you’re not part of a dominant class.”

Chu added: “Air pollution and the proliferation of SUVs are far greater public health risk to my kids than the coronavirus right now – it’s being completely blown out of proportion. Last year in Toronto, 41 people got hit by cars.”

Canada experienced a similar episode of anti-Chinese xenophobia during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS (which also originated in China) in 2003. In Canada there were 438 suspected SARS cases - mostly in Toronto.

At that time, Chinese-owned businesses in Canada incurred heavy losses -- Toronto lost an estimated $910 million as tourists shunned the city and especially its Chinatown.

"The harm was serious," Justin Kong, executive director of the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, told the BBC. "A loss of income, a loss of jobs, people losing their livelihood, losing their homes. Facing stigma at school, at the workplace."

Amy Go, interim president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, said: “I was hopeful it wasn’t going to be like 2003. But it is. It’s happening now and it’s just going to be amplified [by social media].”

Go said the racism that has now come out in the open always existed underneath the surface.

“Two or three months from now, the coronavirus will likely be gone,” she said. “But this is not just a public health issue. This is an issue of racism in Canada.”

Kong added there is now "fear within the [Chinese] community about the disease and fear of the impact of discrimination in our day-to-day lives; the impact it will have on industries, workers, and small businesses and the community at large.”

In France, a newspaper called Le Courrier Picard ran a front-page headline on the virus that read “alerte jaune” (“yellow alert”), which harkened back to the xenophobic “yellow peril” phrase from the 19th century. The paper later apologized.

But the French ministry of foreign affairs urged schools and universities to postpone student exchanges with China.

France has confirmed four cases of the virus thus far.

French people of Asian descent responded with a Twitter hashtag #jenesuispasunvirus -- “I am not a virus.”

A man named Lou Chengwang wrote on Twitter: "I'm Chinese, but I'm not a virus! I know everyone's scared of the virus but no prejudice, please."

A French-Asian girl named Cathy Tran (who is not even of Chinese descent) said: "We rarely hear Asians speak about racism, because we are known to suffer in silence, but here we are all in the same basket and it's too much.”

In Denmark, the Chinese Embassy protested after the Jyllands-Posten newspaper published an editorial cartoon that portrayed China’s flag with virus symbols instead of the usual stars on the red background.

“We feel angry and we feel sad because it’s a kind of insult to our people and to our flag,” John Liu, secretary general at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Denmark.

The paper refused to apologize, citing Denmark’s freedom of speech laws.