Today I hears a comment I wish China said no to. I was getting my coffee in the Sydney’s popular downtown shopping centre, the Queen Victoria Building, when I heard someone say in Hungarian, commenting on the coffee outlet’s personnel: “These yellows are everywhere.”
Hungary has been scoring top in international surveys of xenophobia — indeed, 86% of the population said in a recent survey that they oppose the immigration of the “Pirese,” a fictitious nationality — so Chinese are not really singled out for abuse. (They fare better in the surveys than Gypsies or Arabs, though worse than most others.) But recently, a kind of political sinophobia has been picking up. Having unearthed a migration strategy document prepared for the government, the Christian Democrats — part of the major opposition party — recently alleged that the government is planning to “settle one million Chinese.” (The proposal, which cautiously advocates the adoption of a selective immigration strategy as in other European countries, now seems doomed.) Jobbik, a radical xenophobic party with no seats in Parliament, devoted part of its campaign to opposing Chinese immigration. It is perhaps not even ironic that there are very few Chinese in Hungary — only 15 thousand or so. The Chinese government has made no statements on this, and the incidents have not been publicized in China.
Unlike the recent demonstrations in Milan. Chinese media reported in April that police in Milan had assaulted a Chinese woman with a child; the woman was hospitalized. A demonstration by local Chinese, waving red flags, followed, resulting in a scuffle with the police. Italian and other Western media had a different story: they do not mention that the woman had been hurt but rather that the police had fined her for double-parking and driving a commercial vehicle without a proper permit. They also report that a dozen policemen were hurt in the clash. The Interior Minister of Prodi’s left-leaning coalition government, as well as Milan’s right-wing mayor, made statements to the effect that Italy will not tolerate ethnic enclaves that are outside the law. The xenophobic separatist party, the Lega Nord, organised a counterdemonstration waving salami and bread (the familiar use of food as a symbol of resisting foreign — except this time Chinese, not American — influence).
It appears that anti-Chinese incidents are spreading across Europe as new Chinese business districts arise in residential areas. (In Spain, there have been several attacks on Chinese shoe and garment shops, and there are tensions in Rome and Paris.) Reactions to such incicents have the potential of becoming more overt than previously, when Chinese in Europe would not dream of airing their grievances as assertively as the Milan demonstrators did. (The demonstration shocked Italy because it was the first time an immigrant group not only demonstrated on its own but clashed with the police.) Such manifestations are likely to take on a more nationalistic tone. So far, the Chinese Internet does not seem to have picked these up in a major way. Will it? And will the Chinese government react?