Coronavirus: ‘Fears, rumours and stigma’ cause bullying in Switzerland

A Taiwanese student at the University of Lucerne recounts how she was mocked for being Asian amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

This content was published on March 13, 2020 - 10:39
Lisa Chang,

Despite the concerns around the spread of the coronavirus, what has affected me most is not the virus itself, but the fears, rumours and stigma against Asians because of it. Since the outbreak of coronavirus, I have heard many racist stories against Asians from those around me and on the news. But I had never personally experienced it until last Saturday.  

I was in downtown Lucerne at the Theaterplatz in the early afternoon. As I walked past a group of local senior citizens, they loudly and dramatically shouted, “Be careful! Be careful!” 

The person closest to me pretended to walk away from me as I was approaching. They were laughing the whole time. I didn’t realise their actions were aimed at me until I noticed they were all waiting for my response.  

Lisa Chang Lisa Chang

I stopped, looked at them and asked, “Seriously? You do that just for fun?”

They kept laughing. They neither apologised nor expressed regret for their behaviour.   

Judging by their appearance, they seemed to be educated seniors. I’m shocked that even at their age they are still making jokes based on discrimination, regardless of how it makes others feel. Even when I threatened to report their behaviour, they didn’t care and showed no sign of empathy. 

What hurt me more is that when I told my friends about the incident, they told me about similar situations, most of which happened in school against kids who are of Asian descent but who are Swiss. They were bullied because of their appearance. 

Sympathy and respect 

Bullying should not be tolerated. In fact, residents of Switzerland are protected under its anti-discrimination lawExternal link, which forbids specific, severe forms of racism including public incitement of hatred or discrimination; systematic denigration or defamation; and violations of human dignity, whether verbally, in writing or pictorially, by using gestures, through acts of aggression or by other means. 

Swiss criminal law protects people from all forms of discrimination. For example, it is a crime to insult a person or group of people on the grounds of race, gender or religion, and on the basis of sexual orientation, which a recent referendum confirmed. Swiss law also states that freedom of speech ends once another protected right is infringed, in this case the right to human dignity.  

People need to show sympathy and respect to others; this is what we need the most now. Bullies must also be reminded that justice can also come via the law if they don’t change their behaviour.

For those who suffer from any kind of bullying, especially vulnerable groups like minorities and children, I encourage them to stay strong and, if necessary, seek legal means to protect their right to human dignity. 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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