While pandemic fears have triggered instances of discrimination against Chinese people around the world, inside China, its the people of Hubei Province who feel the sting of stigma.
On March 27, workers from Hubei, Chinas outbreak ground zero that recently lifted lockdown measures, found themselves shunned at the border with neighboring Jiangxi Province.
At a checkpoint on a bridge near the border, Jiangxi police barred entry to Hubei residents and clashed with their Hubei counterparts who tried to ask for clarification.
Amid the scuffles, at least one Hubei officer was pinned to the ground and another was grabbed by the throat, according to a leaked police report. One video captured by locals showed police slamming ballistic shields on the heads of officers from the other side in the melee.
The outraged crowd staged a mass protest from 8 a.m. to late afternoon, shouting “Go Hubei!” and stomping on police cars, with throngs of people filling almost the entire length of the bridge at one point.
On the same day, Chinese media reported the resignation of two vice Jiangxi governors, without detailing the reasons.
Hubei, home to around 60 million, removed travel restrictions in regions outside its capital Wuhan City on March 25, allowing cross-border traveling for anyone who possesses a “green code” to certify that they are in good health.
But elsewhere in the country, hostility and discrimination toward Hubei residents fueled by fears over the virus have been on the rise. Migrant workers from Hubei have found it difficult to shake off this stigma as they return to work in other regions of China.
“We are quarantined and bullied once we go out,” Xu, a worker from Hubeis Huangmei County who went to the protest, described their challenge to The Epoch Times.
A dozen migrant workers that Xu knows had tried unsuccessfully to obtain work. “Once the word Hubei was mentioned, they were immediately turned down,” Xu said.
Stuck and Unwanted
Across the country, people with links to Hubei have found themselves no longer welcome at hotels, buses, and former workplaces, whether or not they have recently traveled to the virus epicenter.
Zhang, a resident of Xian, capital of northwestern Shaanxi Province, was unable to board the shuttle bus to the airport because he carried a Hubei identification card, even though he has never been back to Hubei since settling in Xian over 20 years ago.
“What kind of rule is this?” Zhang recalled asking the driver, who said he was “not in charge of this matter” and asked him to call the airport. After rounds of calls to no avail, the driver suggested that he hail a taxi.
“We received a heads up from the superiors, and I cant provide anything else to you,” the driver told Zhang when he asked for justification.
Zhang, who was accompanying his daughter to the airport, eventually gave up, fearing that the airport might quarantine him, and thus might even be prevented from going back home.
“Its not a huge deal if we lose some money,” he said, referring to the airline tickets for his daughter, who had planned to report back to work in a Guangzhou foreign trading firm but is now stuck at home.
“She studied here from primary school through high school … and attended college here, she doesnt even know what Hubei is like,” he said. The only time she went back to Hubei was six years ago for a college entrance examination.