TikTok Potential Ban In US Fueling Hate Crime Anxiety Among Asian Americans

The rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans has been a widely discussed epidemic since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the recent news of Chinese spy balloons appearing in the US and the highly publicized coverage of the potential ban of TikTok due to security concerns is now leading to increased anxiety among Asian Americans who have had their fears amplified with good reason in recent months. 

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Hate crimes against Asian Americans have been occurring at higher rates every year since the Covid-19 pandemic. More recently, the sightings of Chinese spy balloons over the US, and the rhetoric surrounding a potential ban of TikTok, who’s parent company ByteDance is owned by China, has made many Asian Americans fearful of leaving their homes. 

Shou Chew, the CEO of TikTok, has been heavily grilled in his appearances before Congress and the US House Committee for potential security concerns in the app and the Chinese government. Vanessa Pappas, a top TikTok executive recently condemned the hearing, calling it highly “rooted in xenophobia,” after Chew, who is Singaporean, was consistently accused of working for the Chinese government by lawmakers, while also being accused of being associated with the Chinese Communist Party. 

Lawmakers referred to TikTok as a “weapon of the Chinese Communist Party … a spy in Americans’ pockets,” and continuously mispronounced Chew’s name as well as the names of other officials working for ByteDance.

Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton even stated that Chew should “be deported immediately and banned from the United States.” Zhengyu Huang, the president of the Committee of 100; an organization co-founded by the late architect IM Pei, the musician Yo-Yo Ma and other prominent Chinese Americans, recently spoke out about the harmful rhetoric.

“We are afraid that, more and more, the actions and the language of the government is premised on the assumption that just because we are Chinese or have cultural ties to China that we could be disloyal, or be spies, or be under the influence of a foreign government.”

“We want to deliver the message: Not only are we not a national security liability – we are a national security asset,” Huang continued. 

This hateful rhetoric and increase in hate directed at Asian Americans began to rise at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when xenophobic conversations immediately and unambiguously linked China and its citizens to the cause of the pandemic.

Official viral reports even went as far as to refer to Covid-19 as “Kung-Flu” and “China Virus”: a term that was repeated multiple times by former president Donald Trump. 

In fact, it was during Trump’s administration that the initial war on TikTok began. As the Biden Administration took over, “criticism of China has stylistically evolved from blatant name-calling to the more clinical vocabulary of national security, allowing an undercurrent of xenophobia to lurk beneath the respectable veneer of geopolitics,” civil rights leaders said according to CNN.

US leaders of Asian descent, such as Charles Jung – a California employment attorney as well as  the national coordinator for Always With Us, a nationwide memorial event to remember the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings that killed six Asian women – have spoken up about this shift, stating that our nation’s leaders need to understand the weight that their words truly hold, especially for regular citizens who are growing more and more afraid to leave their homes.  

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“I’m speaking directly to both GOP and Democratic politicians: Be mindful of the words that you use. Because the words you use can have real world impacts on the bodies of Asian American people on the streets.”

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California Democratic Representative and Los Angeles native Judy Chu is the first Chinese American to be elected into Congress. Last month, she made headlines after confronting Texas Republican Representative Lance Gooden after he made baseless claims regarding her loyalty to the US. 

“Rising tensions with China have clearly led to an increase in anti-Asian xenophobia that has real consequences for our communities,” Chu stated. 

“Concerns about xenophobia are bipartisan, there is no question that anti-Asian hate crimes have risen since the pandemic. This is unacceptable. Asian American issues are American issues, and all Americans deserve to be treated with respect. We can treat all Americans with respect and still be wary of threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” explained California Republican Representative Young Kim to CNN. 

“A lot of my colleagues, especially on the select committee, use rhetoric like, ‘This is a new Cold War. First of all, it’s not true: The Soviet Union was a very different competitor than China. And it’s framed in a very zero-sum way … It’s very much being talked about as if their entire way of life is incompatible with ours and cannot coexist with ours, and that heightens the tension,” said Kim.

“We know from experience in the United States that once you demonize Chinese people, all Asian people living in this country face the brunt of that rhetoric,” said Charles Jung, national coordinator for Always With Us.

“We know from experience in the United States that once you demonize Chinese people, all Asian people living in this country face the brunt of that rhetoric. And you see it not just in spy balloons and the reactions surrounding it and TikTok and Huawei, but also in modern-day racist alien land laws,” said Jung.