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Interview With An Immigrant: The Coronavirus

CJ is from Guangdong, China. Currently, he goes to school in Canada and lives there for most of the year. He usually goes back to China for breaks but now that might have to change. With recent outbreaks of the coronavirus, many countries are shutting down air travel to and from China. Although CJ doesn't have the virus, it still has a big impact on his life. Here is what he had to say:

Q: Have you been Worried about your own health at all since the coronavirus started?

CJ: TBH I am not as worried for my own than my family members who’s currently back home. I am more worried about the media backlash potentially which from what I have learned had happened in Toronto back in the SARS outbreak in 2003. Well it’s not pretty the discrimination toward the Asian community back then. But still, it would have been devastated to hear about the confirm cases in Montreal, since many universities is link to the metro systems in downtown. In a nutshell, I am more worried about the media fever here.

Q: Are you worried that this is going to do permanent damage to the way that Asian people are viewed in our culture?

CJ: More or less, like I said before it had happened during the SARS outbreak back in 2003. But also I don’t think it’s permanent, but it will take a long time.

Q: Have you heard anything from your family about what’s happening there?

CJ: It’s mostly that the public service is closing down. For instance, one of my cousin’s told me people can no longer go to the movie cinema during this time in most of the Chinese provinces.

Q: How do you feel about the travel restrictions being put on Chinese travelers?
Do you know anyone stuck in China or North America because of the restrictions?

CJ: People are definitely upset about the travel restriction. For you it might be interesting to hear was that more people were unsatisfied with the government not because of the travel restriction but more on their undoing for not closing the city of Wuhan sooner.

Q: Speaking of the government, do you think the Chinese government is handling the situation appropriately or do you think there are ways that they can improve how they are handling it?

CJ: Initially, people were criticizing the local and central government for not disclosing the information on the number of infects. People were even furious about the local government of this epidemic try to ease the tension. Still, opinion started to change when the central government sent both the civil and military medics to Wuhan. The local government even willing to stand out and discuss the situation in Wuhan despite the risk for condemnation. There’s even a livestream for the construction site of hospitals being built for this epidemic.

Q: There have been reports of food shortages in the cities because of shut downs, from what I’ve heard a lot of people are okay with it because of the severity of the situation. Have you heard anything from people back home about these shortages?

CJ: In the case of Wuhan, yes there were. On one hand, a lot more people in the city were not going back home due to the restriction. On the other, it was during this season of Chinese new year, some vegetable farmers went back to their town prior to the restriction being imposed. As for my city, there were food shortages, but definitely price increase on the items. At the same time, the central government is criminalizing illegal price increase on necessity items, such as medical masks. I mean there were not shortages in my city but more on the price increase.

Q: Do you think the virus is as deadly as the media is making it out to be, or do you think a lot of the deaths are due to health factors in addition to the virus?

CJ: From what I have learned, this virus is not as deadly as SARS in 2003. However, this one is more widespread than SARS. Like you asked in the question, most of the fatalities were the elderly who have weaker immune systems, and they died in combination of their diseases. For younger people it’s not very deadly.

Q: Do you think this is going to become more widespread? There have already been some confirmed cases outside of China, do you think this will continue or do you think it will be contained since the number of cases in other countries is relatively small compared to that of China’s?

CJ: I can only hope the few cases abroad would be contained, but I can’t guarantee. For example, there were suspect cases in Montreal, and almost a week had gone by and I haven’t heard an explanation from either Chinese or Canadian media. Like I have said earlier, if the case is confirmed, it will be hazardous since at least three big Universities are on the same Metro line.

Q: I’m sure you’ve seen some of the jokes online about the virus, do you these jokes are harming the Asian community or do you think that it’s a good way for people to relieve the tension of such a tragic situation?

CJ: Personally, I don’t oppose the jokes about the virus (like the one associated with the beer), it’s only problematic or causing discomfort when they racialize the joke with the Asian community (such as when they associated certain terms, such as Ch*nk which in equivalent is similar to the N-word in African-American communities)

Q: Is there anything that you would like to communicate to the people reading this that might not fully grasp what is happening in China?

CJ: I would like to say, be extremely cautious about this epidemic and try to be less focused on the racialized parts of this epidemic. One last thing, people are actually more angry about the government not locking down the city sooner rather than the violation of human rights, like the New York Times has suggested. One way to look at it is the difference between eastern and western cultures, for us we are more shifted towards collectivism than the west. In other words, when New York Times was suggesting the violation of human rights during the lockdown of Wuhan, it was not that we were unsatisfied with the government for this. We were more furious at the government for not taking action sooner. In other words, the over Emphasizing on human rights would cause a discourse in understanding the situation in China.

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