S’poreans Avoiding Chinese Nationals & Businesses in S’pore Due to Unwarranted Anxiety

The Covid-19 outbreak has given birth to many things.

Panic, clever initiatives, and xenophobia. I’m not exaggerating when I say Singaporeans can be overly cautious sometimes.

Reader: How dare you say such a thing?

Oh I’m sorry I just- wait, why are you wearing 15 masks?

Reader: Uh, because I don’t want to DIE of course. 

You see, it’s this kind of irrationality that can lead to prejudice against an entire race of people.

S’poreans Avoiding Chinese Nationals & Businesses in S’pore Due to Unwarranted Anxiety

If you come into close contact with someone you suspect to be a Chinese national on the train, bus, or lift, what would you do?

Well, Mr Leslie Sim, 30, a lawyer, personally witnessed an incident of xenophobia when he was in the lift of his office building with a Chinese person.

There were two masked cleaners who were disinfecting the grab rails and buttons when another man entered and asked one of them if they were from China.

When the cleaner said yes, Mr Sim said that the man pulled back in mock fear and shouted: “Aiyo you China ah, I scared,” according to TODAYonline.

You probably think that this was a rare occurrence, but it isn’t.

Many Chinese-run businesses are experiencing a dip in revenue due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

This is largely because their workers are from China and Singaporeans want to avoid them. This is why many Chinese eateries have begun displaying notices informing customers that their shops have been disinfected or that their staff have not been to China recently.

Mr Liao, the general manager of Victor’s Kitchen, said that some customers have left his restaurant upon realising that some of its waitresses are from China.

And when you have fewer customers, you have less revenue.

The manager of Dong Fang Mei Shi, a barbecue restaurant in Chinatown, said that sales have fallen by 80%.

Yes, 80%. He said that he used to make $10,000 a night, but only makes $2,000 now.

Image: Giphy

It does indeed. And if you think that there’s no concrete evidence for this xenophobia, just listen to Mr Tan Qi Sheng’s story.

The supervisor of Da Miao Hotpot in Clarke Quay, Mr Tan said that customers have blatantly asked if they have workers from China. And when he says that they do, some of these customers chose not to eat at the restaurant.

This is why Da Miao has seen 70% fewer customers since the Chinese New Year holidays.

Didn’t these customers know that workers who come back from China would have to fulfil a 14-day LOA or SHN?

Blatant Discrimination

And it’s even worse for one owner of a hair salon in People’s Park Centre, as her regular customers have stopped patronising her salon because she’s from China.


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She used to earn up to S$100 a day, but in the past two weeks has only been making S$30 to S$50 daily.

“Business has been so bad, I am planning to live on sweet potatoes each day for now as I’m not sure how I can get past this month’s rent,” she said.

That’s sad enough, but she has faced even more blatant discrimination.

Once, when she tried to buy masks in Eunos, she was told that she would only be allowed to purchase three, even though another customer before her had managed to purchase 10 pieces.

She suspects it’s because she’s a Chinese national.


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Image: Yahoo News

“After the purchase, the staff even scolded me with a derogatory term, saying that Chinese people were responsible for the (Covid-19) virus,” she said.

Maybe she invented the Covid-19 and sold it for $1 on Carousell lah I don’t know

Similarly, Ms Emily Bai, a manicurist who works at Bugis street, said that people are keeping a distance from her as she is Chinese, and that her business has halved since January.

Image: Yahoo News

Now, being cautious is good, but you should never shun or discriminate against someone just because of your irrational fears.

Not Unfair

Surprisingly, many of these business owners are stoic about their situation, saying that they understand why people are shunning their shops.


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Mr Liao, the manager of Victor’s Kitchen, said: “We are faced with a natural disaster now so I don’t think it’s unfair.”

Mr Luo, a waiter at Ni Pang Zi Grilled Fish at Boat Quay, had similar sentiments: “I don’t blame them for wanting to avoid Chinese-run establishments because (Covid-19) did originate from China and nobody knows who has the virus,” he said.

However, another Chinese national, Mr Luo, said he still feels welcome here. “I think Singaporeans are some of the most welcoming people to foreigners. Singaporeans are the most kind people to us.”

Some Singaporeans are open about their avoidance of Chinese nationals, however.

65-year-old Mrs Toh said: “I want to avoid places with large congregations of those from China, just to be safe.”

Image: Yahoo News

She added that she would not know if the Chinese nationals have recently been in China. And this is where the issue lies – is it really rational to avoid a Chinese person if they’ve not even been to China recently?

It doesn’t sound rational at all, so why do we do it?

A Coping Mechanism

Professor of Sociology Paulin Tay Straughan from the Singapore Management University, said that this avoidance is a coping mechanism.


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“Whenever there is a crisis that we have little control over, we often give in to fears and irrational reasoning,” she said.

So some Singaporeans avoid Chinese nationals because “it provides a false sense of security that one is ‘doing something’ to proactively ward off the virus”.

Kind of like wearing masks when you’re not unwell, you know.

If you still feel that this behaviour is justified, try empathising. What if the virus originated here and people shunned Singaporeans in other countries as a result?

How would that make you feel?

As President Halimah Yacob said, “We should also not get into the habit of victim-blaming as viruses do not respect race, language or religion.”

Instead, let’s victim-blame those supermarket hoarders.

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