Stop Asian Hate

Balloon incident triggers more Asian hate

By Gilda Balan, Correspondent

SAN FRANCISCO – An Incident of a balloon flying over US airspace last year was another tool used by hatemongers to resort to Asian hate assaults.

Whether it was a spy balloon as initially claimed by the military, or a weather balloon as the source tried to explain was no longer the issue, as too many were quick to reach conclusions without first checking the facts.

Writing for the AsAm News website, Julia Tong stated that the so-called Chinese Spy Balloon caper “became one of the most prominent stories of 2023.”

On Jan. 23, last year, a balloon from Hunan, China found its way to US airspace, worsening the already strained tensions between the US and China.

One year later, Asian American groups said the incident only heightened xenophobia, prejudices, and fear around the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

According to Cynthia Choi, co-director for Chinese for Affirmative Action, “The alleged spy balloon was contributing towards…perceptions that Chinese and Chinese Americans and Asian Americans and immigrants at large should be considered a suspicious class.”

As the US military and intelligence organizations would later state, “There was no intelligence collection by that balloon.”

The facts of the incident are simple enough.

A Chinese balloon crossed into US airspace, and officials immediately claimed it was conducting espionage activities. Hostility towards China and Chinese people, including Chinese Americans, was the result.

China denied the accusations, saying the balloon was carrying research equipment that had veered off course.

The US Air Force shot down the balloon.

Months later, US officials retracted their claim that the balloon was “clearly for intelligence surveillance.”

The Pentagon said the balloon did not collect information while passing through US airspace.

The damage, however, had been done. Asian American advocacy groups say that controversy had enflamed existing prejudices against Asian Americans, setting the stage for future discrimination.

By and large, mainstream media did not sufficiently cover the Pentagon statement that the balloon was basically harmless, after earlier devoting space and time in print and broadcast to the initial spying claim.

Said Choi: “It’s irresponsible for the media, it’s irresponsible for elected officials to jump to conclusions.”

 It’s worst effect was that some parts of the US passed laws making it illegal for Chinese Americans to buy real property.

Jeremy Wu, co-organizer of APA Justice, has tracked discriminatory legislation now targeting Asian Americans across the US. The most notable are the 33 alien land laws which prevent Chinese Americans from owning property in a state, recently introduced across the country.

It can be said that if there’s one thing worse than Asian hate, it is legislated Asian hate. Yet this is precisely what is happening in various parts of the US.

(This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American)