Coronavirus: Sinophobia

  • April 20, 2020
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As the coronavirus continues to surge globally, virus-related conspiracy theories are proliferating online. These antisemitic, xenophobic, hateful messages spread misplaced blame and misinformation, making it more difficult to access accurate information while elevating fear and anxiety. While some of these messages are new, many are simply old tropes repackaged for a modern pandemic.

ADL is tracking some of the coronavirus-related anti-Asian incidents here.

Sinophobia

Many users on social media are sharing bigoted memes and messages that denigrate Chinese people and blame the Chinese for spreading the disease.

  • People, including politicians, have taken to calling the coronavirus offensive names such as the “Chinese flu,” the “Wuhan virus,” and the “kung flu.” These labels link the virus with China in a way that holds the country, and it’s people, responsible for the outbreak. The following posts were taken from Twitter, Instagram, and Gab. 
     
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  • Despite a lack of evidence that humans first contracted coronavirus because of something that was ingested, people have mocked and exaggerated Chinese cuisine and eating habits. The most common false trope is that the coronavirus was transferred by someone eating “bat soup.” The following images were collected from Telegram and Reddit on January 31.
     
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  • Additional posts shared on Instagram and Reddit blamed Chinese and Asian people for spreading the coronavirus, accusing them of travelling when they are sick rather than staying home.
     
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  • Some social media users are sharing messages and memes that link all Chinese people and people of Chinese-descent with the virus, implying that they should be feared because of their ethnicity. These images were found in February on Instagram and Reddit.
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  • Some messages online have threatened violence towards Chinese people and people of Chinese descent. The meme referencing The Big Lebowski was found on Reddit on February 4 and the message was shared on Telegram on January 26.
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Many online have asserted that the coronavirus is a Chinese bioweapon, though they differ on whether the virus was released intentionally or by accident.

  • This Facebook user shares a conspiracy theory from Reddit (illustrating how theories can jump platforms) in which China manufactured and released the virus in order to depopulate and control their own population, thereby avoiding economic collapse.
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  • A conspiracy theorist on Reddit posits that the coronavirus was created and released by China in order to diffuse the protests in Hong Kong and maintain control over it.
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  • A user on 4chan asserted that the coronavirus is a Chinese bioweapon that they failed to control, but added that Israel is spreading it to the U.S. and Europe.
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  • On March 30, DeAnna Lorraine, a right-wing commentator and former Congressional candidate in California, suggested there is a link between the spread of the coronavirus in the United States and China’s signing of a trade deal with the U.S.
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