Xenophobia has become a growing problem as China sees increase in imported cases of the virus
Foreigners in China are being barred from supermarkets, hotels and public spaces amid suspicion they will re-import the coronavirus epidemic as China bars foreigners from entering the country.
As cases surge across the world, Beijing has contributed to a wave of restrictions at home by claiming the virus was introduced to the country by the US military.
In effect from Sunday, China has ordered its airlines to fly only one route to any country, on just one flight each week. Foreign airlines must comply with similar curbs on flights to China, although many had already halted services.
About 90 per cent of current international flights into China will be suspended, cutting arrivals to 5,000 passengers a day, from 25,000, the civil aviation regulator said late on Thursday.
From Saturday, China will temporarily suspend entry for foreigners with valid visas and residence permits.
The government has controlled the spread of the disease tightly. Daily new cases – as reported by health officials – register in the tens rather than the thousands seen in Europe, with most of them now involving travellers entering the country.
However, the ruling Communist Party has failed to inform people that around 90 per cent of the 427 people who have entered China carrying the virus as of March 23 are Chinese nationals, stoking a climate of xenophobia.
Restrictions foreigners now face sometimes stem from the mobile apps that show individual’s contagion risk, programs that often only recognise Chinese national IDs, and not foreign passport numbers.
Without the green, yellow or red code it generates, local police and compound guards are wary of allowing foreigners to move freely.
But much of what outsiders now confront owes to a growing blanket of hostility toward people who simply look different.
Oliver, a British teacher in Shanghai, was prevented from renting a home by his prospective landlord. “As soon as I arrived, the landlord said, ‘Oh, why didn’t you say sooner you were a foreigner? We won’t rent to foreigners; foreigners aren’t allowed to come in,’” he told the Telegraph.
The landlord insisted that there were new regulations given rising coronavirus infections in Europe, though authorities haven’t announced such rules.
“But he sees a white face, and he doesn’t want to rent to me,” said Oliver, 33, who has lived in China for eight years and refused to give his last name for fear of harassment. Passersby will even cross the street to avoid foreigners, sometimes berating them for congregating in public places.
“Just walking down the street, people will jump away,” said Laura, 36, an American who has lived in China for 11 years, who also declined to give a full name.
“One guy did that weird side-stepping thing, where he tried to flatten himself against the wall just to make a little more distance between me and him.”
Canadian Kyle Hadfield, 37, who has been in China for 14 years, was turned away from a number of hotels in a city close to Hangzhou, where he lives, while visiting a friend.
It wasn’t enough to brandish his passport to prove he hadn’t left China since January and display his green health code.