In December 2014, following the siege of Sydney’s Lindt Cafe, Australians took a stand against increasing prejudice facing the Muslim community in a viral act of unity. After Facebook user Rachael Jacobs posted a status about her encounter with a woman too afraid to wear her hijab on a train, Twitter was flooded with more than 120,000 tweets in one day featuring the hashtag #IllRideWithYou. Thousands of people all over the country offered to ride public transport with Muslims who felt intimidated by anti-Islamic fear-mongering, in a widespread display of support challenging the social stigma.
Very much in the spirit of that campaign, progressive activist group Get Up is urging Australians to support Chinese restaurants that have suffered a severe drop in diners as a result of fear surrounding the coronavirus crisis. Misinformation and unjustified concern about the virus has caused many people in Sydney to actively avoid areas such as Haymarket's China Town, which has had a major impact on Chinese businesses, with some saying they have lost up to 50 per cent of their income. As a result, many are laying off casual staff and in some instances even closing, with the usually bustling Chinatown now largely deserted.
Get Up kick-started the campaign with an email to supporters on Sunday, February 16, after members raised concerns about the inaccurate – and often racist – media coverage stigmatising Chinese residents and their businesses. The hashtag #IWillEatWithYou has been trending on Twitter, but the misinformed xenophobia facing this community is still largely going unaddressed.
With livelihoods put at risk by paranoia, Sydneysiders are encouraged to visit Chinatown or their local Chinese restaurants across Sydney, to ensure these independent businesses survive. It’s time to load up on your favourite xiao long bao or Peking duck pancakes.