Overseas Chinese Face Difficulties under Pandemic

Boston Chinatown Gate’s winter. Photo by Ruoyi Song

By Ruoyi Song

Coronavirus has been plaguing the earth for more than half a year and has yet to achieve control. As of July 28, more than 10 million people worldwide had been infected. Those affected include Chinese immigrants and students in the United States.

During the worst of coronavirus, Chinese in America have faced many difficulties, but they still manage to persevere.

Back in January 2020, Li Hua gathered her friends and colleagues in the United States and collected 3,000 medical masks. She sent them back to a hospital in Wuhan, China because coronavirus was raging there, and many hospitals even had a shortage of masks and protective suits for medical staff. At this time, many Chinese organizations in the United States donated money and materials to China, and all of them thought about their relatives and friends in China.

A Chinese American, Li Hua organized five WeChat group chats and a Facebook group to organize medical assistance for Wuhan. In the announcement of each group chat, it said: ” As we work in the United States to create new homes that are inclusive of all races, we must not forget the sick and the friends in China who need our help.”

By March, when the coronavirus began to spread in American, Li said she didn’t think she would be able to buy herself a mask in Boston. By that time, masks were frequently out of stock were often three times more expensive. “But two months ago, I was organizing a donation drive. Things are changing so fast.” Li said.

A real estate agent in Boston, Li has been in the United States for more than 10 years and has obtained immigration status. But many of her friends still live in China. “Chinese people in the United States, or Chinese Americans, are the most concerned about this outbreak,” she said. “In January, I was worried about containment in China. Now, I’m worried about being infected here in the United States.”

As novel coronavirus began to explode in the United States, many Chinese in the United States began to worry about being the target of attack and discrimination. More and more Chinese organizations have called for an end to discrimination against Chinese Americans during the epidemic. For example, the Committee of 100, a cultural group of Chinese Americans, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans have organized groups to help hospitals and communities and stand up against issues of racial discrimination. Yet news about the mistreatment of Asian Americans comes up all the time. On August 7, the World Daily reported that the police have been involved in the case of a Chinese-American mother and daughter who were attacked by a racist slur in Philadelphia. And there are many other cases like this.

In addition to the harassment and poor public opinion of Asians in Americans, the economic crisis has also become a major problem for Chinese Americans. Mei Xiang[LINK}, who runs a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles, nearly closed for failing to pay her rent and staff during the lockdown period in California. But as take-out food became so popular during the pandemic, she kept her restaurant going by delivering meals.

“Following the novel coronavirus outbreak, few will choose to come to a Chinese restaurant in January and February,” she said. “Because [of that], I have no customers and almost no income.” But after she started delivering food, her business picked up because she was able to make it safe for her customers to pick up their food. “I can still run my own restaurant, but sadly, many of my friends have gone out of business,” Mei said.

In addition to immigrant Chinese Americans, Chinese who need work visas to maintain legal work in each state in America have also been affected. Chen Shuang {LINK}, from Shenzhen, China, has been living in the United States for seven years. After graduating from college, she successfully obtained an H1B work visa. However, when novel coronavirus appeared, she was laid off in July. and became one of 21 million Americans who were out of work. 2.9 million workers had been laid off through August, but the weekly jobless claims report showed 30 million people continued to file for unemployment benefits under various programs.

Spring festival comes to Chinatown.  Photo by Baidu 

At a White House news conference in April, President Trump announced new executive orders that would stop approving work visas for most foreigners for 60 days because it would allow more Americans to get jobs than foreigners with work visas. For H1B visa holders already working in the United States, they must show the government that they do not threaten American jobs.

The executive order worries many Chinese graduates in the United States. For many Chinese who have been granted work visas to the United States, this has disrupted their lives with unemployment, status and visas. “This hits Chinese Americans harder than the coronavirus.” Chen said.

Chinese students in the United States are also affected. After the outbreak in the United States, they faced only two choices: return to China or stay in the United States. Neither decision was easy.

Because of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the United States can only fly back to China once a week, According to China’s Ministry of Education, the number of Chinese students studying abroad in 2019 reach 700,000, While the number of Chinese students studying in the United States now stands at 320,000. This means that the seats on the plane cannot meet the demand at all, so the price of air tickets increases sharply[LINK}. In 2019, a round-trip air ticket between China and the US would cost around us $1,000, whereas today it costs around US $10,000.

Whether students choose to return to China or stay in the United States is a tough decision for them. In the face of epidemic diseases, people’s lives are greatly affected. Chinese who works in the United States and Chinese Americans, including Chinese students, are under different pressures in this disaster. They cannot be reunited with their families and endure loneliness, but they also help each other in difficult times. Many Chinese groups are still active in fighting for their rights, or distributing medicines and masks. In the meantime, they wait for the coronavirus to spread. Waiting for a vaccine. Although the disaster is destroying people’s hearts, they still remain strong.

“Both Chinese Americans and Chinese students in the United States are now facing difficulties. Racial discrimination and social problems cannot solve the disaster caused by diseases,” said Bingru Wang, a reporter for China-based Phoenix TV based in Washington. “What we need to do is to help each other, because in the face of epidemic diseases, human beings are a whole.”