[OPINION] Like us, the Chinese are victims of the virus and a despotic government

 

Social media is rife with xenophobic remarks against the Chinese. Stories of tourists from the Mainland not respecting local customs or traders being rude in Divisoria are nothing new. However, this stereotyping intensified recently after the novel coronavirus, which originated from a market in Wuhan, China, had reached the country. 

Buhusan nyo ng alcohol lahat ng chekwa na masasalubong nyo (Douse all the chinks you run into with alcohol),” says one post.

Tactless and insensitive remarks like this one are not going to help. They are only going to hurt people who are already suffering without alleviating the problem at all. Worse, it will only widen the cultural divide between our countries. Common sense dictates that this is anathema to good diplomatic, economic, and geopolitical relationships. (READ: [OPINION] Hate and xenophobia have no place in the coronavirus outbreak)

Some Filipinos are quick to accuse Chinese culture of being disgusting and revolting. Pictures of a Chinese man allegedly defecating outdoors in Intramuros recently made rounds online. Previously, another viral post showed pictures of a Chinese tourist burying dirty diapers into Boracay's white sand.

But even though these are outrageous crimes, we have to remember that for every rambunctious Chinese tourist, there are tens of thousands more who are good people trying to enjoy our beautiful country. Before anyone condemns them for eating bats and snakes, please remember that some Filipinos eat rice field rats and bulls’ penises. Yup, the star ingredient of Soup No. 5 is an animal’s phallus. 

Though I am in favor of a complete but temporary ban on people who’ve been to China recently, I have the interests of our nation's health at heart, and not some misplaced belief that the Chinese are natural carriers of disease. (READ: [OPINION] Filipinos, disease, and fear)

The Chinese are also an oppressed people. Unlike us, they don’t have freedom of speech and expression, media is tightly controlled, and there is no full freedom of movement. The 2019 Human Freedom Index even ranked the Philippines as way ahead of China in terms of human rights, at 76 versus 126 despite the former’s relatively minuscule economy. 

The Chinese are under increasing state surveillance. Their government has been installing countless security cameras equipped with facial recognition. In draconian fashion, jaywalkers may find their pictures and names publicly shamed on billboards the following day. 

The Chinese government also recently introduced the social credit system, where simple violations like jaywalking may reduce your "score." Having a low grade will restrict your access to trains and loans, for example, while behaving like a "good" citizen by following laws and promoting the government online will earn you perks. This system may look like it's establishing good public order, but at the same time it requires everyone to be an agent of state propaganda. 

Love using Facebook and Google? If you live in China, say goodbye to them, too. Their social media platforms automatically detect, delete, and report posts or search terms that are deemed critical of the Communist Party, like the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre. Being too opinionated may land you jail time.

Most pressingly, the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, has been placed on lockdown, without a clear plan for providing its trapped citizens with essential supplies. 

But the Chinese and Filipinos also have plenty in common. The Chinese are also led by leaders who simply want to gain more and more power through corruption. The plight of China’s Uighurs and Tibetans and the victims of the Philippines’ failing drug war both attract international condemnation. Both Chinese and Filipinos are just trying to get by with what they have. And both countries have confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and death. 

If we have to express anger brought about by this precarious situation, we have to channel it towards our governments, as day by day they are failing the same people who voted them into power. We should not direct our anger towards our Chinese neighbors, who are suffering just like we are, both from the coronavirus and nefarious leaders. 

So before we hit the "share" button on another discriminatory post, perhaps we should step back and ask ourselves, “Is this going to help? Am I condemning an entire country for the actions of just a few?” Most importantly: “Aren’t they victims like me?” – Rappler.com

Rob Julian M. Maghinang is a proud Iskolar ng Bayan from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Manila. His opinions are his alone and do not represent any of the organizations he is affiliated with.