Nothing Xenophobic Or Racist About The Chinese Travel Ban


AT FIRST, I couldn’t believe my ears. Morning Report co-host, Suzie Fergusson, was interviewing Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, President of the New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA). The latter was objecting to the Government’s COVID-19-inspired ban on students travelling to New Zealand from China. Objecting!? Why would a spokesperson for the tens-of-thousands of tertiary students at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus be objecting to the single most effective means of preventing its spread?

The answer, it turned out, was to protect Chinese students (currently out of the country) from racism and xenophobia. According to NZUSA’s Open Letter to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education:

The ban has fuelled hysteria that coronavirus is a “Chinese” disease, and is responsible for spreading xenophobic and anti-Chinese sentiments within the Asian community. It has uncovered deeply rooted racism, including in the form of questions such as “Where are you from? Oh, not China? No coronavirus then.”

There is so much wrong with this statement, it is difficult to know where to start.

First and foremost COVID-19 is a Chinese disease. The first cases of the viral infection were detected in the city of Wuhan, in the People’s Republic of China’s Hubei province. The expert consensus on the origins of the virus identifies Wuhan’s live animal market, where the disease is thought to have made a “species jump” from an as yet unidentified mammal to human-beings. Over 90 percent of the COVID-19 virus’s more than 2,500 fatalities have been Chinese citizens. The international travellers mostly responsible for spreading the virus to other countries have, likewise, been Chinese.

To recite these facts is not to excite hysteria, it is simply to state the truth.

Clearly, NZUSA is not much interested in the truth. If it was, then it would understand why New Zealand, along with a host of other countries, is unwilling to allow Chinese nationals to cross their borders. There is nothing xenophobic or racist about identifying the source of a new and potentially devasting virus against which the world is currently defenceless. There being as yet no vaccine, nor any effective pharmaceutical remedy, the imposition of a travel ban makes perfect sense. It is a simple precautionary measure, intended to impede the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the planet.

The simple conversational formulation: “Where are you from? Oh, not China? No coronavirus then”, is not evidence of “deeply rooted racism”, merely proof of New Zealanders’ conversational directness (and also, possibly, their tactlessness). That said, with 90 percent of those infected with the virus being Chinese, identifying yourself as someone coming from somewhere other than China does, indeed, dramatically increase your chances of NOT being one of COVID-19’s victims. Saying so doesn’t make you a racist, it merely suggests you possess a measure of mathematical and statistical literacy!

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I shall pass over the clearly nonsensical statement that describes spreading xenophobia and anti-Chinese feeling in the “Asian” community. Obviously, the authors of the Open Letter meant to say the “wider New Zealand community”, or, given the ideological extremism permeating the document, the “Pakeha” community. (If the use of the word “Asian” is not an error, however, then the Open Letter is guilty of opening up a very large and malodorous can of ethnically prejudicial worms!)

Is it too much to expect the representatives of university students to possess enough historical awareness to realise that anti-Chinese feeling in New Zealand runs very deep? Long before COVID-19 made its species-jump, nineteenth and early-twentieth century New Zealand governments were developing ever more ingenious ways to keep Chinese nationals out of “God’s Own Country” – not to mention dreaming up new ways to make the lives of the ethnic Chinese already here even more miserable. Is Ms Lenihan-Ikin simply too young to remember Prime Minister Helen Clark’s 2002 official apology to Chinese New Zealanders for the appalling treatment meted out to them by their European compatriots? Chances are she is.

Which is a pity. Because some appreciation of how very close to the surface New Zealand’s “Yellow Peril” racial prejudices lie would have been of immense help to NZUSA as it formulated its response to COVID-19. It would, for example, have equipped them with the political imagination to foresee how vast numbers of New Zealanders might react to the news that Chinese students, heedless of the possible consequences for the New Zealand population, had prevailed upon the New Zealand government to allow individuals from the territory most seriously affected by the COVID-19 virus to enter the country without being placed under strict quarantine. A modicum of political imagination might also have been helpful in assessing the likelihood of xenophobia and anti-Chinese feeling exploding if one of those students was identified as the person responsible for carrying the COVID-19 virus into New Zealand.

Still, it behoves us all to go a wee bit easy on Ms Lenihan-Ikin. After all, the NZUSA President is merely following the lead of her tertiary education sector bosses. They, too, it would appear, have given little thought to the way the rest of the country might be reacting to their special pleading. So utterly dismayed do they appear at the prospect of losing all those full-fee-paying customers, that the possibility their unfettered entry might end up killing several hundred of the rest of us doesn’t appear to have entered their heads. A great pity, really, since there was a time when our universities were highly valued as repositories of scientific knowledge and cultural wisdom. Turning them into irresponsible corporate money-grubbers may yet prove to have been a very unhealthy idea.

If Ms Lenihan-Ikin is looking for something else to write an open letter to the government about, might I suggest the urgent need to rescue New Zealand’s tertiary education institutions from the twin evils of misdirected political empathy and plain, old-fashioned, greed?




  1. But not to worry. The “self-isolation” recommendation by Universities will prevent it’s spread.
    Yeah right. And next we should ask the multimillionaires to “honestly self-audit” their finances.

  2. “Turning them into irresponsible corporate money-grubbers may yet prove to have been a very unhealthy idea.” – I think that has already proven to be the case

  3. “There being as yet no vaccine, nor any effective pharmaceutical remedy” = truth.
    However, vitamin C IS a wonderful answer – so long as it’s ingested in much higher amounts than the specified by ignoramuses daily amounts of 90mg/day for adult men & 70mg/day for adult women. Cats & dogs synthesise in their bodies GRAMS/day – not mg/day!
    Since August 1983, I have taken from 20,000mg/day down to present 10 – 15 grms/day as Na Ascorbate. Not one incident of a cold or flu in 37 years. The information is “out there”! Vit. C is a registered medicine in NZ but try to find a doctor who will prescribe it! Read about Dr Fred Klenner.

  4. Probably the same “too woke to vote” students, who when they see a mentally ill foreign student struggling, instead of sending them back to their country to get treatment and return later (like any other student would do studying overseas) they cry racism, xenophobia and demand the student accesses treatment in NZ (when we do not even have enough beds for our own struggling mentally ill students) and thus making it harder for the local mentally ill, shoved to the side in the face of foreign $ and rampant lobbying for more benefits here.

    The arts are now full of pro Beijing propaganda and the canny CCP are recruiting Chinese artists to spy for them. I’ve always wondered why there is so little self reflection from the Chinese arts community in NZ against their Chinese government’s actions, and lack of support or interest to pro democracy in their work, now we know why!

    Instead the propaganda is increasingly becoming the familiar cries of targeted victimisation of Chinese here using examples as trivial as a coffee receipt with Asian on it, or a dangerous micro aggression like complimenting somebodies English or an international ban to stop a pandemic.

    Anyway if you see a foreign student never compliment them on their English because it could be considered a microaggression by the Chinese woke of which the migrants students eagerly join forces with the local woke to demand their victimisation be heard loud and clear.

    Examples of dangerous micro aggressions in the arts… (not a joke, this is actually some students work) and her bizarre interpretations of the ‘message’ she believes is being said to her!

    Dangerous micoaggressions to avoid sarcasm. …..

    Microaggression: “You must write your essay in English.” “I will tidy up your English.”
    Message: You are unintelligible and unintelligent. You are less of a human being.

    Microaggression: “Your English is good!”
    Message: You make me more relaxed around you. You don’t threaten me.

    Microaggression: “Where are you from?”
    Message: You don’t belong here. You are not the norm.

    Even more bizarre when you think that if a NZ art student did that in China they would probably be arrested on the spot. China is a country where free speech is so restricted, that the doctor who texted colleagues about the coronavirus to warm them against infection, got arrested by the Chinese police and was later killed by the virus.

    Weird why study in a country you don’t like and perceive the people and university are giving you subliminal messages, that they hate you?

    Well I guess the dual residency after a few years gives foreign students millions in pension benefits for their parents, free health and education for their children which is not free in their wonderful countries like China, free water and pollution for their foreign corporates, and the same voting rights after 1 year living in NZ, for the CCP strategy in the Pacific!

    All this to help neoliberalism create a land without society and full of individuals – Thatcher’s dream. (and she knew what she was talking about because she was a former fish and chip shop owner, just the Thatcher types we like to attract to NZ in our essential skills and Entrepreneurship visas!)

    • Auckland Uni is going to lose $30 million if those Chinese students don’t turn up next Monday, so they are putting a halt to all new staff job openings. Like the rest of ‘corporate’ NZ, the Unis depend on foreign money to survive – oh and horrendous fees even for local PostGrad students. I’m actually glad I decided not to return to Auck Uni this year. I might be virtually the only person in the class anyway, which means they’d cut the course which was at least 70% ‘foreign’ i.e. Chinese and Korean

      • How much do you think a coronavirus epidemic will cost the New Zealand economy as a whole? I’m guessing it’d be a lot more than $30 million.

        If New Zealand’s universities chose to make themselves dependent on foreign income just so they could keep endlessly expanding and pay the Vice-Chancellor a more generous salary, I have little sympathy for their plight.

  5. Re: Will they weaponise the disease or our fear of it?

    Agreed, NZ should have been shut down and turned into a police state when our measles epidemic was gifted to the world. Why stop there? If little Timmy at the playcentre gets the runs then maybe we should send in the big cops with their bushmasters to arrest and quarantine this infectious little danger. Send in the cameras to for effect and also Bronwyn from the Ministry, who will hold a speed camera up to your forehead as you move through the train station to make sure you aren’t speeding or trotting or both. Really you have as much chance of winning lotto first division as perishing by coronaCHINAvirus, but the odds of getting factual health information on disease from authorities without emotion or hysteria or someone talking in low tones in a darkened room from behind a facemask is closer to that of winning Powerball. The real threat to many is that CovidCHINA666 is losing share market and trade money. But the real sage advice is not to travel in China because transportation will kill as many people in a typical few days as all AsianDeathFlu to date.

  6. Fuck the want’s of the Chinese.
    Or anyone else that has a contagious and deadly disease or virus who wants to come to AO/NZ for any other reason than life or death. And even then…. for that matter.
    Once you know you have the flu, any flu, you self-quarantine. It’s fucking common sense for Christ’s sake.
    Chinese people? Stay at home! Stay in China! If you insist upon coming to AO/NZ and you’re unsure of whether you have coronavirus or not, and you do have the virus? Is that not an act of terrorism?
    The ‘soldiering on’ thing belongs back in the dark ages of calvinistic Presbyterianism.
    I had a retail business prior to the earthquakes and if anyone came in proudly proclaiming how sick they were I’d kick their diseased arses out the fucking door!
    At this point we seem clear of the virus. It’d be insane at the very least to jeopardise that. At worst, treasonous surely?

    • Haha yeah ,… there was an era back in the 1990’s ( and probably a long time before, and probably still now ) when listening to my ex wife’s female friends over coffee when the subject of common childhood diseases such as chickenpox , mumps and measles came up that so many of them seemed to have this ridiculous notion , ” its all right, just send em off to kindy or primary school and let them all build up immunity by letting them all come down with it”.

      I kid you not.

      At the time I remember thinking ” you disgusting , irresponsible bitches , – you’d willingly let little children suffer and possibly risk permanent damage all because your too damn f@ckin lazy to nurse and isolate your sick kids at home for a week – even if it means a drop in family income?”….and this was a few years before I did some officially recognized microbiology papers as part of a Dip Sc and Technology at Waikato Polytech . This was when I’d arrive home from work after slugging my guts out on construction sites only to have a coffee and sit on on the conversation, tired and with a coffee in hand…

      It all became crystal clear a few years on when my son developed ALL at age four. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia . We all learnt from the Oncology staff of just how deadly these things are with those with compromised immune systems due to chemotherapy and the like. And that includes EVERY age group and NOT just those with cancer.

      Well ,… it all just goes to show how deadly some of these so called ‘common childhood diseases’ really are when we see the death toll from a measles outbreak in Samoa that was imported from NZ lately… precisely because NZ DIDN’T practice effective isolation and containment techniques .

      I learnt a lot on virulent microbiology and historical case history’s. I retain a keen interest in microbiological history and research today. Particularly ancient Rna / DNA of known deadly microorganisms as compared to today’s variants… because that is how we see morphing and mutating over the decades and century’s , which provides clues on the origins, virulence and containment of deadly transmittable diseases.

      And one of those case history facts is the European ( and other eastern places which European history does not record ) city authority’s who effectively banned travel in and out of their city’s / regions. They were, by and large , the places that minimized the ravages of Black Death among the population,… sometimes. I emphasize the word ‘ sometimes’.

      What Chris is saying is the most common sense, most basic front line approach to the containment and spread of ANY virulent and deadly microbiological outbreak. It is so fundamental to cutting off the spread of disease at the roots it is amazing that some people cannot see / understand that and instead deliberately wish to politicize it because of personal greed and profit weighed against the lives of the vulnerable !

      And until there is effective treatment, – this is the ONLY option you have.

      However , a word of caution and wisdom to the wise :

      Do not think deadly pandemics, epidemics and the like do not have their consequences. They do. As it was during the century’s of the spikes and troughs of the Great Plague…before modern medicine and knowledge of these things,… international trade suffered,… and so too did old established social orders,… primarily because labour was now at a premium because so many had perished and no longer did the old ‘Lord and Serf’ rule of the medieval period apply.

      This was a primary factor in ushering in a new era of the Renaissance , the sciences, the arts, literacy ( as former peasant family’s were now becoming the new educated ‘ middle classes’…) and the long march towards democracy,… so that perhaps these ” irresponsible corporate money-grubbers [ who ] may yet prove to have been a very unhealthy idea” – that Chris implies may wish to have another think. And so I leave you with the final paragraph of Chris’s very succinct and incisive analyses:


      … [ If Ms Lenihan-Ikin is looking for something else to write an open letter to the government about, might I suggest the urgent need to rescue New Zealand’s tertiary education institutions from the twin evils of misdirected political empathy and plain, old-fashioned, greed? ] …


      Because therein lies the heart of the matter.

  7. I’m sure the tertiary education sector in Australia is just as unhappy given the $$ generated by international students which is why I advocate a return to free tertiary education for Kiwi’s and have fee paying foreign students offered only places not first taken up by locals.

    If the govt wants to make money from visitors then clean up our filthy rivers and ensure tourism remains a strong focus for this once pretty little country.

    • +1 sean – Totally agree . Also with the foreign students can we try and attract less and better ones, aka not the ones who have zero hope of even getting into a decent university anywhere else in the world do a fake masters in business to get residency, or have psychopathic and other tendencies aka the recently convicted doctor Venod Skantha who murdered a teenager to cover up his lifestyle with young teens and drinking, who got his medical degree at Auckland University before heading to Dunedin and murdering her…

      • They way NZ universities behave, you would think they had 90% foreign student and 10% foreign students.

        It’s crazy how they are ignoring their main domestic students in their planning and instead relying on planning for more foreign students. It’s a risky strategy, because they are getting less domestic students and foreign students can be changed in an instant due to climate change, pandemics, disasters, airline pricing and foreign policy!

        At the same time, it is changing the culture of universities for free speech aka not allowing the Hong Kong Protest at AUT, not allowing the feminist conference at Massey or Don Brash to speak just because the vice chancellors (who are increasingly imported into NZ so they have zero understanding of the culture here apart from a short woke course) say so.

        Meanwhile neoliberal universities realise that foreign students who fail are bad for business and cheating is rampant but just turn a blind eye. NZ lecturer says half of international students in their class failed for cheating, universities turning blind eye

        Our entire country and businesses seem determined to plan around the rest of the world being their capital and markets going forward, with no interest in working out that there is a lot of risk in that, going forward and it should be diversified.

        The coronavirus is already effecting supply chains in NZ as they can’t get one component from China then their entire offering is affected and their business can’t run.

        Same happened with Japanese tsunami but it’s worse now, as the NZ supply chain is increasingly more just in time manufacturing from China, with less manufacturing being local or from multiple sources.

        In NZ our entire country have ignored the locals as a brainwashing strategy and have put too many eggs in one basket and oblivious to ongoing risks and disruption that creates as well as pissing off their main markets.

  8. The young man after having asked what beers his friends wanted ordered these as well as three shots of vodka. The girl behind the bar was young. She must have been over 20 years old to work behind the bar but she didn’t look it.
    But there is something about her ‘young-ness’ that struck the young man. It seemed as if age had yet to leave its mark in any way upon her. As if the ravages of time had been held at bay without falter from the moment she had entered this life of early morning and the death of loved ones. For a moment the young man felt as if only he were to embrace this girl, to hold her close to him and press his face up against her own, he too would be able to draw upon whatever it was that still burned brightly deep within her.
    The ever-encroaching darkness had made itself known to the young man. It may yet to make its ponderous way across the vastness of a life that should be yet be lived but he could see it there before him stark against the horizon. The girl behind the bar had yet to have such an apparition, a ship at sea faced with nothing but a boundless sea and sky. She was yet to stand face-to-face with the spectre of an ever-lasting embrace. The young man saw this in her and wished that he too could be the same again.

    • Great writing James but not really appropriate for a politics forum, time to have a good hard look at yourself and when you are ready come back with a better attitude.

  9. The poor standard(s) of ‘Higher’ education in NZ is appalling.

    1st, she dont noe whats shees talking aboat! 2ndcondly shees doesnt give uz any contexta.

    Education in NZ is a jock!

  10. People have lost their minds. Coronavirus is the common cold ffs, and not even the most common virus at that (rhinovirus is). These diseases are always in the community in some variant, and it is normal for nearly everyone to catch a cold or two every year. The public just need to adhere to normal, safe healthy practices (washing hands etc.), and governments and the media just need to chill the cuck out.

    • Wrong.

      The difference between the cold virus and the ‘ flu ‘ virus is enormous . Every year in the USA hundreds die from the flu and its variants,… far less so from the virus that causes the ‘ common cold’.

      And as per usual, it usually claims the lives of the elderly , the immuno – compromised or those weak from injury or the very young. We are dealing with a totally new strain of virulent ‘flu / viral ‘ strain that has already claimed the lives of hundreds of not thousands.

      And to date?- there is no vaccine developed to address this new viral strain.

      So you are wrong on many counts.

      I would not wish it upon you, but if you or your own came down with this thing I think you would be baying for border security in a heartbeat. Let us hope for your sake and those of your family that this will not be the case.

  11. So we have to let in people with Ebola, I suppose, because blocking them from entry may be racist also, against black Africans? Noah’s Ark is sinking as too many sought refuge on it.

  12. Closing our borders to people from coronavirus infected nations has to be our priority right now, with reviews further down the track.

    If the common sense of this move is deemed racisist or xenophobic, then so be it. Protecting NZ is paramount in this situation.

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