CAPAC Chair Issues Hate Crimes Tool Kit and Messaging Guidance on China Amid Spike in Anti-Asian Bigotry

Jul 27, 2020

Washington, D.C. – In order to counter the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes following the spread of the coronavirus and heightened rhetoric about China, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) today issued guidance to every Member of Congress on how to express opposition to or concerns with policies adopted by China’s government, without inspiring more xenophobia that is already putting Asian American lives at risk. The guidance advices Members to only use the official name of the coronavirus, refer specifically to the governing Chinese Communist Party instead of all Chinese people, and avoid Cold War-style rhetoric.

The messaging guidance to fellow Members of Congress says, “Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, there has been an alarming uptick in hate crimes and incidents targeting the Asian American community due to misconceptions that Asian Americans are more likely to carry the virus and should be blamed for its spread. According to data compiled by various Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate crime reporting websites, there have been over 2,300 anti-Asian American hate incidents reported in just the last few months alone. At its height, nearly 100 hate incidents were being reported each day. And, at the end of March, the FBI warned that, because ‘a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations,’ they expect that ‘hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States… endangering Asian American communities.’”

The document also provided a tool kit with resources for countering anti-Asian hate crimes. Rep. Judy Chu issued the following statement:

“While there is no doubt that the Chinese government mismanaged their handling of the coronavirus early on,  Donald Trump’s use of racial slurs like ‘kung flu’ and ‘Chinese virus’ are a distraction to deflect from his own flawed and delayed response to contain the coronavirus in our country. But this xenophobic blame shifting also creates a real danger for Asian Americans who are increasingly becoming targets of hate crimes as people misdirect their anger at the virus towards individuals they perceive to be ethnically Chinese. This xenophobia is precisely what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of on their COVID-19 website when they instructed everyone to only use the virus’s official name. But instead of following the advice of its own experts, the Trump administration has decided on a strategy to recklessly stoke xenophobia and provoke anti-Asian bigotry. And it is only getting worse now as the campaign rhetoric around China further escalates, with many agitating for a new Cold War.

“Left unchecked, this heightened rhetoric will lead to more violence. We know because we have an example. In the 1980s, as competition from Japan led to layoffs of American autoworkers, anger toward Asian Americans grew. Vincent Chin, who was Chinese American, was out in Michigan for his bachelor party when two white workers who had recently been laid off attacked him with a baseball bat, assuming he was Japanese and blaming him for the loss of their jobs They beat him so badly that he died from his injuries a few days later. This same threat is being posed today by politicians who are trying to create a new Cold War with China, and I fear that it could have tragic results.

“There have already been over 2,300 anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents in just the past few months alone, including the stabbing of an Asian American father and his two children in Texas by a man who said he wanted to kill Asians because of coronavirus. That is why I am issuing this guidance today. We do not need to shy away from the challenges posed by China’s policies, nor should we when they threaten our values or interests. But that is all the more reason to be specific in our criticisms. When we focus instead on vague or existential concerns about China, it feeds into fears at a time when tensions are already high. Arguments that blame ‘the Chinese’ for everything from a pandemic to trade imbalances makes it impossible to understand what the actual causes of these problems are while instead refocusing anger at over a billion people, millions of whom are U.S. citizens whose lives are threatened by this very approach.

“Cold War style rhetoric around China may work for a campaign based on animating people through fear or anxiety, but it is a bad way of conducting policy. That is why we need to be clear with all leaders that their rhetoric on China matters. We have seen the way careless rhetoric has put lives at risk. I’m urging my colleagues to help correct course, stop the xenophobia, and help put an end to the hate crimes threatening millions of Asian Americans.”

The guidance and tool kit can be found online here.