Surgeon Dr Rhea Liang (pictured) says she was subjected to racism by a patient this week
Asian-Australians say they’ve copped a barrage of racism in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.
As virus continues to spread across the country with nine confirmed cases in the last week, so does misinformation about the disease which first broke in China, where the death toll has climbed to 213.
Fear-mongering has led to people of Chinese and Asian backgrounds becoming the target of racially-motivated comments.
Gold Coast Hospital surgeon and educator Dr Rhea Liang took to Twitter this week to share her humiliating experience during a consultation with a male patient as shocked colleagues watched on in horror.
‘Today a patient made jokes about not shaking my hand because of coronavirus. In front of my team. I have not left Australia. This is not sensible public health precautions. This is racism,’ Dr Liang tweeted on Thursday.
The tweet sparked several hundred comments from around the globe.
people of Chinese background say they’ve become the target of racially-motivated comments in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Pictured are passengers at Brisbane Airport on Friday
‘I appreciate this is a difficult time, we are all in this together. I’d shake your hand anytime. Sadly ignorance from others,’ one woman commented.
One man added: ‘The casual and rampant sinophobia disappoints me. We, as a unified body of people, should be better than that!’
Dr Liang decided to share her story after a doctor in the US shared the racism faced by her young son.
‘My son was cornered at school by kids who wanted to ”test” him for coronavirus just because he is half-Chinese. They chased him. Scared him. And made him cry. I was the same age when I was bullied for being Pakistani. It’s 2020. I thought things had changed by now,’ Dr Nadia Alam wrote.
Dr Liang’s tweet prompted other Asian-Australians to share their own stories.
‘This is the first time I’ve ever felt physically unsafe in Australia because of my race. I thought we were over this but obviously not,’ Brisbane writer Yen-Rong Wong wrote.
Melbourne woman Rachel Zhang has had a similar experience of racism since the virus hit Australia last week.
‘The coronavirus is a human tragedy but where there should be solidarity instead there is division,’ she posted on Facebook on Thursday.
‘In light of recent events I have never felt more unwelcomed in a country I call home.
‘I can no longer walk the streets or take public transport without someone scrambling to get away from me. If I cough to clear my throat, people stare at me in fear.
‘Everyone has their own culture and values. Whilst physical isolation may be necessary, I implore all to not emotionally isolate those with Asian ethnicity. Please target the virus and not the people.’
Dr Rhea Liang took to Twitter to share her humiliating experience during a consultation
Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu has weighed into the racism debate over the coronavirus
The Victorian Multicultural Commission expressed its concern over the growing reports of racism.
‘We are deeply concerned by the emergence of racism in response to the coronavirus. There is never an excuse for racism. In times of a world health emergency we must follow the advice of health experts, stand together and show compassion,’ the organisation tweeted.
Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu has also weighed into the debate in recent days.
‘A virus will not be what tears us apart; fear and bigotry will,’ he tweeted.
He also took to Facebook with this plea.
‘If you live in the US, Australia or Canada the (Centre for Disease Control and Protection) has this under control,’ he wrote
‘Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Get the flu shot.
‘Express your sympathies for the Chinese families this disease has affected.
‘And please, don’t be a bigot.’
Misinformation about coronavirus has sparked racist remarks towards people of Chinese descent. Pictured are passengers arriving into Brisbane on Friday
Dr Liang believes the remarks are the result of misinformation, including the perception that coronavirus is a ‘Chinese thing’.
‘The white Australian guy at the corner shop is just as much likely to have caught this thing from newly arrived people from China as I might have,’ she told HuffPost Australia.
‘So to stereotype that only Chinese people might be exposed to it is unfair and a bit racist.’
‘And I just thought if this is happening to me, and I’m in a position of authority – I’m a consultant on this team – I really worry about the people who are more vulnerable.’
Dr Rhear Liang (right) believes the remarks are the result of misinformation about the virus