Racism and xenophobia experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand during COVID-19: a focus on Chinese and Asian communities

Racism CALD New Zealand

Over the past year, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission received a number of complaints from Chinese and Asian community members about COVID-fuelled racist and xenophobic abuse. While racism and xenophobia are not new to these groups in Aotearoa, the Commission historically hadn’t received a large number of complaints in a short amount of time such as what was happening during the early months of COVID-19.

The purpose of this research was to document the prevalence, nature, and pattern of racism and xenophobia experienced by people in the COVID-19 context, particularly among Tangata Whenua, Chinese, other Asian peoples (apart from Chinese), and Pacific peoples (and potentially others, such as the elderly and disabled people).

Key findings:

  • 39% of respondents reported experiencing any kind of discrimination since the start of COVID-19.
  • 21% of respondents experienced discrimination that they perceived as specifically related to COVID-19 – higher rates for Chinese (40%), Tangata Whenua (30%), Asian (27%), and Pacific respondents (26%).
  • The most common forms of discrimination reported by respondents were receiving online negative comments or abuse, being stared at in public, being excessively avoided (beyond the usual social distancing) and receiving negative comments or abuse in person.
  • When faced with discrimination that occurred since COVID-19, the most common response reported by respondents was to ignore it and do nothing at the time (42% reported this).
  • 47% of Chinese respondents reported knowing of a friend or family member who received verbal abuse in a public space (this percentage was 17% among the whole sample).
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