GENEVA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- A United Nations (UN) expert on Monday stressed here that it is dismaying to witness state officials adopting coronavirus-related expressions of xenophobia, describing such rhetoric with geographic references as irresponsible and discriminatory.
E. Tendayi Achiume, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, said in a media statement that governments must ensure that their response to the COVID-19 pandemic does not contribute to xenophobia and racial discrimination, and that they must eradicate xenophobia throughout all state policies and messaging.
"This sort of calculated use of a geographic-based name for this virus is rooted in and fosters racism and xenophobia. In this case, it serves to isolate and stigmatize individuals who are or are perceived to be of Chinese or other East Asian descent," the expert said.
She cited the World Health Organization (WHO) as saying that disease names do matter to the people who are directly affected. Certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities and can have serious consequences for peoples'lives and livelihoods.
"These consequences have already become a reality. Over the past two months, people who are perceived or known to be of Chinese or other East Asian descent have been subject to racist and xenophobic attacks related to the virus," she said.
According to the expert, these attacks have ranged from hateful slurs to denial of services or even brutal acts of violence.
"Crises like the coronavirus pandemic remind us that we are all connected and that our wellbeing is interdependent," the expert stressed.
"Furthermore, political rhetoric and policy that stokes fear and diminishes the equality of all people is counterproductive. To treat and combat the spread of COVID-19 effectively, individuals must have access to accurate health advice and sufficient healthcare without fear of discrimination," she argued.
Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, Achiume is an assistant professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.