Anti-Asian racism: Why K-pop and U.S. stars speak up after shootings

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China has a growing demand for energy

The deadly Atlanta shooting which killed eight, including six Asian-American women, casts a spotlight on racism fuelled by COVID-19, like the term “China virus”

A fatal shooting in the United States this month of eight people, including six Asian-American women, has triggered calls to stop rising anti-Asian violence – with South Korea’s K-pop stars, BTS, becoming the latest to speak up.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that such attacks, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, were “wrong, un-American, and must stop”, as his administration announced new measures to counter the trend.

Here’s what you need to know about rising anti-Asian racism:

Which celebrities have spoken out?

K-pop sensation BTS, which dominated world music sales in 2020 with the year’s top two best-selling albums, called for an end to anti-Asian racism.

“We send our deepest condolences to those who have lost their loved one. We feel grief and anger,” BTS said on Twitter, using the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #StopAAPIHate, referring to Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The seven-member group said they have suffered racist abuse, including being sworn at and mocked over their appearance, which made them feel “powerless and chip away our self-esteem”.

“We cannot put into words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason,” said BTS, who were compared to the new coronavirus by a German radio host last month during a live broadcast.

The Korean group joined other Asian-American stars who have spoken out since the shooting, including “X-Men: Apocalypse” star Olivia Munn and Golden Globes winner Sandra Oh, best known for her role in the series “Grey’s Anatomy”.

Actors Daniel Wu and Daniel Dae Kim last month jointly offered a reward of $25,000 for information on a case where a man of Asian descent, 91, was assaulted in California.

Basketball star Jeremy Lin, who is Taiwanese American, also shared his anger at the increase in racism with the use of terms like “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” to describe COVID-19, first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

“The Atlanta shooting made my heart sink. The world felt darker and more frightening than ever before,” the former NBA star co-wrote on the Time news website.

What happened at the shootings?

The bloodshed began about 5 p.m. on March 16 when four people – two of whom were Asian-American women – were killed at Young’s Asian Massage, about 40 miles (64 km) north of Atlanta, in the southern state of Georgia.

About an hour later, four women of Asian descent were shot dead in a beauty salon and in a nearby aromatherapy spa in the state capital.

A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with multiple counts of murder and told investigators sex addiction led him to violence.

Police have not ruled out the possibility that anti-Asian sentiments could have been part of the motivation.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the State Capital this month demanding action to stop the rising hate crimes.

Are anti-Asian hate crimes linked to the pandemic?

Hate crimes against Asian Americans in major cities rose by 149% in 2020 to 122, up from 49 in 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, a U.S.-based research group, while overall hate crime fell by 7% to 1,717 incidents.

The spike first occurred in March and April amid a rise in cases of COVID-19, which then-President Donald Trump repeatedly referring to as the “China Virus”, and negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic, it said.

Violent incidents included people being slashed with a box cutter and lit on fire, according to testimony at a U.S. congressional hearing on anti-Asian violence this month.

The most Anti‐Asian hate crimes reported in one year was 355 in 1996, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism said.

Is anti-Asian violence being reported elsewhere?

Outside the United States, people of Asian descent have also reported a rise in physical attacks and discrimination fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Australia, one in five Chinese Australians say they have been physically threatened or attacked in the past year due to the pandemic and tensions in Australia’s relationship with China, a Lowy Institute think-tank survey this month showed.

About 5% of Australia’s 25 million people claim Chinese ancestry, the national census shows.

In Britain, a university lecturer who is a Chinese national was left with a bloody nose and mouth last month after a racist assault by four white men who shouted at him to “go home” when he was out jogging.

A Singaporean student studying in London last year suffered facial injuries after he was attacked by a group of people who linked him to the coronavirus.


Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation