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Letters—Media racism exposed in coverage of coronavirus

This article is over 4 years, 3 months old
Issue 2690
The coronavirus continues to spread and so do racist incidents
The coronavirus continues to spread and so do racist incidents (Pic: flickr)

Panic around the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan has led to a rise in racist attacks against Chinese and East Asian people.

Many will have seen the Evening Standard’s extremely distasteful cartoon of a rat with a face mask—alluding to 2020 being the year of the rat. This is just one example.

Much of the right wing media latched onto the idea that the virus started in Huanan Seafood Market, known for its trade in wild animals.

After scientists reported that the virus was likely to have originated in bats, a video of a Chinese woman eating bat soup went viral.

Commentators on Twitter used it as evidence of Chinese people’s “dirty” eating habits.

The theory about Huanan Market has now been disproved.

Yet the vile comments persist.

They build on a history of racist portrayals of East Asian diets based on false information and arbitrary judgements on what kind of meat is “acceptable”.

Food safety standards are a concern in China—as in much of the world.

But it is not ordinary people’s tastes that are to blame.

It’s government failure to regulate the industry.

The racism hasn’t stayed online. Chinese people—and those with East Asian appearance—around the world have spoken out about being targeted on public transport.

Passengers told a woman to get off the Metro in Paris, while university student Sam Phan wrote in the Guardian newspaper that people had been avoiding sitting next to him on the bus.

Those on the right are calling for stricter border controls against Chinese people.

It is crucial that we stand in solidarity with all those affected by the virus and condemn the racism that seeks to divide us.

Ruby James

Central London

Grants come too late for health students

I am a third year occupational therapy student who started university in 2017.

That was the year that the NHS student bursaries were taken away, and tuition fees were introduced.

Now I and my fellow students are finishing our course and the government have decided to reinstate maintenance grants.

This is obviously good news for future NHS students, but my fellow students are annoyed that we have been forgotten about by the government.

I started a petition to tackle this issue. It now has received almost 15,000 signatures.

And I have written to my local MP as well—Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care.

However, I am still awaiting a reply.

It would be great if you could sign my petition

Arzoo Raja


Religious leave stays

Ealing Council, in west London, has informed head teachers that they intend to keep paid religious leave of up to three days per year for all teachers.

It was Ealing head teachers who asked for this “review” with the aim of taking away this right.

This decision also means that the possible threat of losing up to five days paid leave for a sick child or close relative has been removed.

The NEU union legal opinion was that education workers would have a strong claim under the 2010 Equalities Act. It was accepted by many members that the removal of religious leave would be a racist cut if applied.

The union votes on the matter were unanimous.

This victory shows that we can stand up to the attacks we should anticipate from the government and Boris Johnson’s racist agenda.

Stefan Simms

Ealing NEU

Expose the BBC bias against the left

A campaign is growing against the BBC’s “anti-left wing bias”, particularly its coverage of the 2019 general election.

During election campaigns, the mountains that Labour had to climb to win power because of a viciously pro-capitalist press became more akin to mountain ranges.

There are currently a number of initiatives taking on and exposing BBC bias.

First, a petition challenging the BBC’s anti-Corbyn bias has reached an impressive 24,000 signatories.

We need to get 25,000 so we can move to the next phase of our campaign.

Second, a ­crowd-funding campaign has been set up to take Ofcom to court for refusing to investigate last year’s flagrantly anti-Labour BBC Panorama programme on antisemitism.

We need to take this issue to the courts so we leave the BBC nowhere to hide when its disgraceful and systematic bias is exposed.

This is particularly true on the antisemitism issue and on its anti-left bias more generally.

Dr Richard House

Stroud, Wiltshire

Court farce for Rebels

I was happy to see charges against Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists were dismissed after a police officer witness went on holiday.

It shows how farcical the initial charging was. But XR can expect to face harsh charges in the future, especially as the climate justice movement grows.

Molly Doherty


Question for monarchists

I’d just like to ask monarchists why they support a woman—the queen—who shows contempt for the feelings of her people, even those of her supporters.

Will Counsel


HS2 is not worth it

We should not continue building the HS2 railway.

We’re better off electrifying existing services and buying new rolling stock.

Alam Bray

On Facebook

One state is the only way

The Two State solution is dead, Israel-Palestine needs to be one secular state with civil rights for all.

Get Trump’s hands off Palestine.


On Twitter

LGBT+ deserve more

I was shocked to hear that Caroline Nokes, an MP who voted against same-sex marriage, has been appointed to parliament’s Women’s and Equalities committee.

Surely the only qualification for the post is don’t be a homophobe.




No tears on Brexit day

European Union (EU) sanctions have resulted in the deaths of refugees and migrants who have tried to cross it’s borders.

I don’t like the thought of a Tory Brexit. But I didn’t mourn leaving the racist neoliberal EU last month.



Fire disaster still a scandal

Grenfell profiteers should be put in the dock defending murder charges.

Ian McGeorge

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