Xenophobia and racism against the Asian community exploded and became another worrying effect of the arrival of the new coronavirus in the South American country.
Chinese and Japanese, especially, are subject to attacks in the country, mainly in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where a large number of Orientals and descendants of Asians live. “Chinese people stop eating poisonous cats” and “Chinese people are inhumane, they disgust me” are two examples of the abundant comments on the social network Facebook page of the Brazil-China Sociocultural Institute (Ibrachina), said the institution’s president, Thomas Law. Law, quoted by the news agency Efe, regretted the exponential increase in “hate speech” and “racist comments” in Brazil against Orientals that have grew since January this year, when the new coronavirus crisis broke out. Brazilians “need to understand that the virus is a virus, has no face, has no nationality and can circulate anywhere”, said the president of Ibrachina. Racist and xenophobic speeches went beyond digital platforms and discrimination also hit the real world, reported Si Lao, a young Chinese woman who has lived in São Paulo since 2011, where she teaches Mandarin and maintains a YouTube channel called Pula Muralha, in which she launched a series of videos with information about the disease. “I wanted to buy masks, but I thought that if I bought them, people would think I was infected. I didn’t go to the pharmacy, I was scared”, admitted the teacher. The young woman, who studied in Wuhan, at the epicenter of the new epidemic, acknowledged that she was concerned about friends and family who live in that region and recalled that, although “only numbers are seen, each number is a story”.
The largest Chinese population in Latin America lives in Brazil and is made up of about 380 thousand people, 80% of whom are in the state of São Paulo, the most populous and richest in the country.
Although racism has increased, the epidemic of the new coronavirus has officially infected only two people in Brazil, who have returned from trips made to Italy.
Demonstrations of discrimination against the Chinese community have expanded in the country, “making no distinction” or simply “falling alongside racial insult”, pointed out the president of Ibrachina. In addition to having the largest Chinese population in Latin America, Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside Japan and, according to the last census of 2010, there are more than 2 million Orientals or descendants in the country, which represents 1,1% of the Brazilian urban and rural population.
A descendant of the Japanese law student Marie Okabayashi de Castro Lemos, reported that she was the victim of an episode of racism and xenophobia after being insulted by a passenger in an urban tram car in Rio de Janeiro.
On the social network Twitter, Marie Lemos published a video that showed the alleged woman who also labeled her “disgusting” and accused her of “spreading the disease” to everyone. Combating the growing prejudice against Orientals was one of the main requests of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
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