Sheffield teacher faces xenophobia in China over coronavirus

A Sheffield-trained teacher living in China has spoken of the discrimination she’s faced over the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

By George Torr
Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 2:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 2:12 pm
Rachel and Suresh
Rachel and Suresh

Rachel Ford, aged 27, originally from Chesterfield, has been living in the city of Hangzhou near Shanghai since August.

As China appears to be returning to normality following the outbreak in Wuhan, Ms Ford said she’s suffered discriminaton from some locals who think she has brought the virus back over despite living there before the outbreak.

The former Sheffield Hallam University student also spoke about living through mandatory lockdown in China and had a message for people back in the UK - stay at home.

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Rachel and Suresh

The 27-year-old PE teacher who married husband Suresh last year, spoke of an incident where Chinese locals speaking Mandarin in a restaurant questioned if the ‘foreigners’ had the disease and another couple questioned if they should move tables.

The next day, two security guards refused to let both Rachel and Suresh, a Malaysian national, into a bar and said ‘no entry to outsiders’.

Speaking from Hangzhou, Rachel said: “We went out as a couple and a British colleague joined us. We sat next to some locals at a table and they were making jokes asking if it was safe for them to sit there and if we were infected.

“The next night, we went downtown to one of the bars we visited before. We got to the main entrance but we found it was barricaded piled up with bikes so we went to another entrance and we were told that they weren’t letting in ‘outsiders’.

“We tried to explain the situation but they weren’t having it.

“They said they were allowing so-called ‘outsiders’ in because the belief now was they were bringing the virus back despite us going through quarantine.

“It was really surprising they weren’t letting us in - all the locals were being let through flashing their green cards which shows you’re safe and we were the only ones who were stopped. We all showed our green passes but they wouldn’t even look at it and they screamed at us that we couldn’t go. It was just pure xenophobia.”

Suresh added: “We felt really upset by this and really angry. Among our group of expat staff here I’ve been quite defensive of the Chinese because of the way the virus started in the country.

“We were told that this wasn’t the first report non-Chinese being allowed into that street so this xenophobic policy was not right.”

On the restaurant incident, Suresh said: “Both couples on either side of us made comments about foreigners possibly having the disease and one said asked their partner if they should move and questioned if they were safe.

“I glared at them and they didn’t realise I spoke Mandarin. We didn’t get any comments after that but it was sad to hear those things.

“It was disappointing because the Chinese are quite vocal against xenophobia and racism and mention that in the West and other parts of Asia they are being treated poorly.”