After I was quarantined in a hotel for 24 days, I arrived at my home for another four days of quarantine. Some opinions and questions appeared from my neighbors. More and more critical voices toward international students appeared in the news.
In early March, a news story about an international student from Italy broke the peace in China. The original source was a video posted online. The student had studied abroad in Italy and just come back for a 14 day quarantine in a hotel that the government arranged for her. She asked for a bottle of mineral water since the water had a weird taste. But for three days, she did not get any water. In the video, the student shouted her experience and asked the reason for not providing her water. “I need to drink water and to stay alive. Even [though] I am quarantined, I also have the basic human right.” she said to the police in the video. After the video posted on Weibo (a Chinese social media platform), she received comments from people who called her a “giant baby” and demanded her to “go back to Italy.”
Although I respect that people should have the rights to comment on events based on their ideas, it does not mean people should make assumptions about others. A short video with no integrity and detailed explanation should not be used as an original source to judge what is the reality of a situation. After I researched the whole event, I realized that no reliable news reports from the event could be found. As time passed, people have not just been commenting on what happened behind the video. Public opinions began to target international students as a group. People started to question why would international students come back to China since they have already “betrayed” the country by studying abroad. A popular phrase pointed at international students was everywhere on the internet: “ When we build the country, you are not here. Why would you come back to ‘contribute’ virus? （国家建设你不在，千里投毒你最快)” Instantly, the media and the public put the entirety of international students under pressure.
Recently, another news story shocked the public. An international student from Italy came back to China and tested positive for coronavirus. After she got transferred to another hotel for quarantine, her luggage with her artwork that she built for one year had been destroyed by the hotel without her permission. The response from the hotel was even more arrogant: “You should be glad that you are still alive and should not ask for more. You can evaluate the value of your luggage and we will make a compensation.” Does the student really want the money? This was her hard work that she put into her art project and the basic respect as a human in society.
The negative opinions targeting international students have caused them to behave more carefully than before. When I first came back home, my parents told me that I should not see any friends even though I had been quarantined for 28 days. I was seen as a “trouble” to people around me. But I questioned why I would be treated that way as a legal citizen of my own country. At the same time, I have felt sad and depressed. When Wuhan first broke out with coronavirus, international students grouped together investing a large amount of work to donate masks and protective suits that were mailed to China.
I do not want to judge people’s reactions, but as an international student, I am disappointed and want to figure out what I can do to help this situation.