Coronavirus: Chinese-New Zealander hits back at racism with T-shirt

Too many people are perpetuating the racist stereotype that all Chinese "must be infected" with coronavirus, a Chinese-New Zealander says. 

Auckland-based writer Helene Wong's frustration has led her to make a public declaration, printing a T-shirt with the statement: 'I'm not from Wuhan, drop the pitchfork'.

"I'm targeting people who seem to equate people from Wuhan [the epicentre of the outbreak] with all Chinese," Wong told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"When they're walking around Auckland, they automatically assume any Chinese they see must be infected. It's about stereotyping all Chinese with this disease. I'm tired of it, this is not the first time this has happened."

Wong acknowledged that young males "who find it amusing to abuse people for anything" are particularly encouraging the harmful stereotype.

"In this situation, Chinese [people] are so visible, it's very easy for them to do that and target us," she says.

Wong, who was born and raised in New Zealand, noted that many people of Chinese heritage nationwide identify as Kiwis. 

"I'm an example, I was born in New Zealand and I've grown up in New Zealand. I haven't been to Wuhan, I don't know anyone in Wuhan. 

"I'm not trying to point the finger at people in Wuhan - I'm pointing the finger at people who have conflated the idea of Wuhan into being all Chinese."

Earlier this month, chair of the Auckland Chinese Community Centre Kai-Shek Luey said an acquaintance of Chinese origin was told to "go back home" following the outbreak of the disease - despite being born in New Zealand and never having visited China.

"It is hurtful to a lot of people because we feel that we are generally good citizens, obey the law of the land and try and make a positive contribution," Luey told The AM Show

He said it was not uncommon for latent racism to surface in such times and said the community had "experienced it all before".

Luey urged people to remember that "we are a country of immigrants", adding "tolerance is important".

One viewer of The AM Show said they witnessed a "horrendous" scene at a supermarket when a woman started yelling at an elderly Asian woman choosing her fruit and vegetables.

According to the viewer, the lady yelled: "do you f*****g Chinese people have to touch the fruit and veggies with your hands - why can't you just look with your eyes?"

"It was horrendous, and it made a fair few people uncomfortable and that poor elderly lady scurried off from what she was doing. It needs to stop, this is their home."

The New Zealand Chinese Association has also said it is "concerned that people of Chinese heritage are experiencing harassment and abuse sparked by fears about coronavirus".

"It is not on to harass or abuse anyone because of their ethnicity. Our actions must be based on facts and evidence rather than ignorance," the association's president Richard Leung said.

The total number of deaths from coronavirus in China reached 1310 on Monday. There are roughly 48,206 total cases in the Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus.