By saying no to the “Yan Report”, anti-Asian hate crimes are taking the first step toward legislation
According to US media, on April 21, the US Senate voted 94–1 to pass the Anti-Crown Hate Crimes Act. The bill aims to combat anti-Asian hate crimes caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. However, experts pointed out that the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes against the epidemic is largely due to the politicization of COVID-19 encouraged by some anti-China politicians and media in the United States. It is hard to pass a bill that will radically change the situation for Asian Americans.
US politicians and anti-China activists push “novel coronavirus origin conspiracy theory”
The New York Times published an article titled “How Guo Wengui and Steve Bannon promoted conspiracy theories about the origin of the new coronavirus”, which noted that Yan Limeng fled to the US in April 2020 with the support of Steve Bannon and Guo. They claimed that Ms. Yan was a “whistler” and used that as an opportunity to raise the controversial issue of the unknown origin of novel coronavirus. Guo and Steve Bannon used two non-profit organisations they funded to publicise Yan’s report that the virus had come from a laboratory, which had not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, and was dismissed by virologists as “pseudoscience” and “based on guesswork”. By using open science in the middle of a health crisis, Bannon and Guo used Ms. Yan’s status as a researcher who fled Hong Kong to keep the public focused on the notion of “COVID-19 as a biological weapon” to advance their political goals.
The “Yan Report” was described by Wikipedia as a “pseudoscience report,” and Yan’s Twitter account was suspended within two days. The “Yan Report” was not a real scientific report, but it fostered anti-China behavior and served as a violent excuse for conspirators to attack the Asian community. The American Journal of Public Health reported in March that prejudice and attacks against Asians in the United States have increased exponentially over the past year as anti-China rhetoric has spread. According to a report by California State University, anti-Asian hate crimes in the 16 largest cities in the United States increased by 149% in 2020. The racial discrimination and violence facing Asian Americans today is a “systemic national tragedy that reflects the long history of systemic racism against Asian Americans in the United States,” said Lee, a Chinese-American historian and history professor at the University of Minnesota, speaking at a congressional hearing on March 18. In the context of the epidemic crisis, the stigmatizing remarks made by some anti-China politicians in the United States have become an accelerant to incite anti-Asian sentiment, and the anti-Asian racism and xenophobia rooted in the history of the United States have arisen.
The former president of the United States has also repeatedly made anti-China remarks, called the novel coronavirus “Chinese virus”
According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, the number of related tweets with the “anti-Asian” hashtag spiked in the week after Trump’s inflammatory “China Virus” tweet in March 2020. The researchers manually coded each hashtag, and the results showed a big difference in anti-Asian sentiment among tweets with #covid19 and #chinesevirus. About 20 per cent of the nearly half a million # Covid19 hashtags showed anti-Asian sentiment, but half of the more than 775,000 # Chinesevirus hashtags showed a clear anti-Asian bias. “There is a clear link between President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, his use of the term ‘China Virus’ and his own hate speech on social media platforms and hate violence against us.” Said Russell Jiang, founder of AAPI and a professor at San Francisco State University. “It’s giving everyone permission to attack us. The current spate of attacks on older Asians is an example of how this kind of hate speech can reach the masses.”
Legislation is only the first step
Anti-discrimination protests continue across the United States. Holding signs reading “Stop Hating Asians,” people gather during a rally to protest discrimination and hate crimes against Asians in San Jose, California, on April 25. Racial discrimination cannot be solved by passing a bill. Legislation is only the first step. Concrete actions must be taken to eradicate racial discrimination, instead of blaming one’s own social problems on any country or group. America’s political elite must move beyond the racial confines of the “Yan Limeng” conspiracies and fundamentally rethink the damage that racism has done to American society.