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Congressional Resolution Supporting Asians Seeks to Protect Against COVID-19 Hate Crimes

September 14, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
The U.S. Capitol, Aug. 5, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — A congressional resolution that started Monday as a condemnation of hate crimes against Asians quickly turned into a dispute over who should be blamed for the devastation caused by coronavirus.

Democrats blamed President Donald Trump for mishandling the U.S. response to the pandemic that has caused nearly 200,000 American deaths.

Some Republicans, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, said Chinese government lies and cover-ups about the deadliness of the disease are at fault. Coronavirus has been traced to bats in the area of Wuhan, China.

No one on the House Rules Committee endorsed the idea of anti-Asian sentiment. They disagreed only on government policy.

Jordan said the issue in House Resolution 908 is not about Chinese people, “It’s about the Communist party and the Chinese government.”

The resolution is titled, “Condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19.”

It would require law enforcement personnel to document hate crimes against persons of Asian ancestry in the United States and to more vigorously prosecute them.

Trump has called coronavirus the “Chinese flu” and the “Wuhan flu.” 

“That’s not racism,” Jordan said. “It’s just the facts.”

He also said the timing of the resolution weeks before a presidential election appeared to be an effort by Democrats to discredit Trump before voters.

The Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council reported on Aug. 27 that there were 2,583 incidents of discrimination and violent acts nationwide against persons of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry in the previous six months.

In addition, 58% of Asian Americans say they have been subjected to more racially insensitive comments about Asians than before the coronavirus outbreak, the group reported.

Some communities already are taking the kind of action encouraged by House Resolution 908.

The New York City Police Department recently organized an Anti-Asian hate crime task force made up of 25 Asian-American detectives. The police department’s statistics show that from mid-March to mid-August, there were 21 hate crimes against residents of the city’s Asian community. The crimes were related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Philadelphia, Chinese-American business leaders organized an online meeting to discuss strategies to address hate crimes.

In Los Angeles, a group called “Stop AAPI Hate” is asking California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to increase funding for programs to confront ethnic bias and to add a cultural representative to his COVID-19 task force. AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander.

During the congressional hearing, House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., called Trump’s comments that linked the virus to the Chinese “disgusting.”

“We have a responsibility not to pour gasoline on the fire,” McGovern said.

However, he denied the resolution was intended as a criticism of the president.

“There’s nothing in the resolution that mentions the president by name,” McGovern said.

Other Democrats were more direct in criticizing Trump.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., said he not only supported House Resolution 908 but added, “I would support a resolution condemning the abysmal response of this administration on coronavirus.”

House Resolution 908 still is pending with no vote scheduled yet.

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