Anti-Chinese racism 'even reported at primary schools' amid virus outbreak

China’s ambassador to the UK has condemned "hatred" against Chinese people amid the coronavirus outbreak, claiming abuse had even been reported at primary schools.

The comments come following reports of racist incidents in Wales and London.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Liu Xiaoming said: "I think the general public is very supportive. There are some cases of hatred, discrimination, against Chinese nationals.

"I think there are many reasons for it. Lack of understanding of the epidemic. Of course, there is also some deep-seated racism. Not only in this country, but anywhere."

There are so far three confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK. The latest death toll in China from the coronavirus rose to 363 on Friday, with a further 31,161 confirmed cases.

A number of British Asian people have reported hostile treatment in public since the virus prompted international news coverage.

MiMi Aye, a Burmese food writer from London, posted photos from a journey on the Tube's Victoria line on Tuesday which showed people opting to stand rather than take the seats next to her.

In Wales, a woman from Taiwan said she faced alleged discrimination from fellow market traders following fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Stallholder Su Chu Lu, who has lived in Aberystwyth for 22 years, told ITV News she returned to work after a three week holiday in Taiwan and was told by other traders to leave and "quarantine" herself.

There are anecdotal reports that London's China Town has seen fewer visitors in recent weeks. Credit: PA

At York University – where one of the confirmed UK cases studied – officials issued a statement condemning reports "from students and staff of abuse and racism" since the virus outbreak.

There were also reports that a woman had been verbally and physically abused at Sheffield University for wearing a face mask.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Mr Liu added that the Chinese embassy had received similar reports from universities "and even in some middle schools and primary schools".

Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming at an event to mark Chinese new year. Credit: PA

Since the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, boarding schools in the UK have issued new guidance advising staff to be alert for signs of xenophobia due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Boarding Schools' Association (BSA) told members to look out for prejudice towards Chinese students by others - either in person or on social media.

In a statement the group said: "Such behaviour should not be tolerated and action should be taken against anyone acting in this way".

Elsewhere, the Chinese Community Centre Birmingham tweeted saying it had heard "abuse against Chinese people in the UK has increased since coronavirus spread".

Birmingham City Councillor Alex Yip said he had received dozens of calls and emails from alleged victims.

Lab scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris work on discovering more about the coronavirus. Credit: AP

On Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock condemned "racism and insensitivity" aimed at Chinese and east Asian people, adding: "None of these attempts to dehumanise an entire ethnicity should be allowed to prevail."

The Foreign Office has advised Britons living in China to "leave if they can" as the country works to stop the spread of the viral pneumonia.

  • How have the rest of the world reacted to the coronavirus outbreak?

Reports of anti-Chinese sentiment have not been limited to the UK following the coronavirus outbreak.

A local French newspaper was forced to issue an apology after social media users accused its front page of being racist.

The Courrier Picard published a front page which read "Yellow Alert", as well as an editorial headlined "the yellow danger?". One Twitter user wrote the paper has given a "lesson in uninhibited racism".

Editors offered their "sincere apologies" for the headline, and said it had been meant in the "colorimetric sense".

In the days that followed, the hashtag "Je Ne Suis Pas Un Virus" was trending on Twitter - which translates as "I'm not a virus".

Some Twitter users said people were using the outbreak as an "excuse" to be racist.

In Canada, a petition organised by parents of schoolchildren in York near Toronto has been criticised for its tone.

It reads: "York region has a large Chinese-Canadian population.

"There were a lot of people traveling to China before or during the Chinese New Year. We cannot be overly cautious in protecting our children.

It adds that families returning from China to Canada "will definitely bring the virus into our country".

The petition, with more than 9,000 signatures, calls on the York District School Board (YDSB) to order its schools to track and name any students who recently travelled to China.

In response the school board said it is important the coronavirus outbreak is "not seen as a Chinese virus".

It added: "Situations such as these can regrettably give rise to discrimination based on perceptions, stereotypes and hate."

South Korean protesters gather outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul. Credit: AP

South Korea has seen protests against the admittance of Chinese nationals into the country.

Protesters marched on the Chinese embassy in Seoul on Tuesday.

Another group gathered outside the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul calling for a ban on Chinese people entering the country - protesters held signs that read "No Entry".