Chinese students at UK universities have returned to China in their droves following a series of recent reports of Chinese students being subjected to verbal or even physical attacks in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Chinese students also cited concerns over the British government’s handling of the virus. Tao Wang, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, expressed shock at the rapidity of COVID-19’s development in the UK, and said that he believes the Chinese student community would be safer in China than in the UK.

A Case of ‘Maskaphobia’

Yinxuan Huang, a sociology researcher at City University London, found that incidents of racist attacks towards the Chinese community in the UK were being triggered by the fear of masks. In one reported case, a pair of Chinese students wearing masks were stopped, sneezed on and laughed at publicly in Manchester.

“Many Chinese students feel that the issue of the mask is the single biggest cultural shock they have ever experienced in the UK,” says Yinxuan. Events such as these are now forcing the 120,000 Chinese students to choose between returning home on the few remaining expensive flights, or staying indoors – not just due to fear of contracting the virus, but also fearing the slurs or violence brought by anti-Chinese sentiment.

Read more on this story from the Guardian.