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City councilors to combat coronavirus fears with Chinatown dim sum brunch


Taking a stance on the coronavirus anxiety that’s fueled prejudice against Asian Americans and dealt a blow to local restaurants, city councilors and civic groups are joining together Saturday for a public dim sum brunch to rally around small businesses in Chinatown.

“Lunar New Year season is usually the busiest time of year for all the restaurants, and you go and you see business after business, there are no lines, it’s empty, and folks are really being hit hard,” City Councilor Michelle Wu, who’s hosting the event with Councilor Ed Flynn, told her colleagues at a meeting Wednesday.

Coronavirus, which has killed 1,310 people in China’s Hubei Province at the epicenter of the outbreak, has stoked fears around the world in recent weeks.

But, the virus and misconceptions about it have also led to a wave of discrimination and stereotypes surrounding Chinese food and traditions that have wreaked havoc on Chinese businesses, as many costumers have opted to stop frequenting restaurants and retailers, including here in Boston.

Local business owners have said the drop-off in customers was noticeable following the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Massachusetts.

Wu said the discrimination against the Asian American community extends far beyond the economic ramifications, too.

“The coronavirus epidemic globally has injected a lot of fear and anxiety all across the world but frankly has (also) injected a level of blatant or overt discrimination as well,” Wu said. “I’m hearing often from parents of kids who are hearing comments from their classmates about who brought it here and this and that, and folks who are on the subway and because they’re Asian American, are experiencing people acting differently and kind of keeping more space.”

Flynn, whose district includes Chinatown, added, “There is a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment here in the city and across the country, unfortunately.

“But it’s up to us to continue advocating, making sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity regardless of what your ethnic background is,” he said.

It’s in that spirit that both Wu and Flynn are teaming up with Quincy City Council President Nina Liang, the National Association of Asian American Professionals Boston, and the National Asian Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship NextGen, to host the dim sum brunch at the China Pearl Restaurant on Tyler Street, from 10 a.m. to noon.

The event will celebrate the historic neighborhood and support local businesses, organizers say.

“We hope to… make sure people know that Chinatown is bustling, we welcome you there, and we want to make sure Lunar New Year season is just as successful this year,” Wu said.

According to a listing on eventbrite, admission is $10 per person at the door.

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