Six undergraduate students in the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Macau (UM), led by the department head Prof Xu Jianhua, recently conducted a study on the stigmatisation, discrimination, and hate crimes against various population groups in Chinese-speaking communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study has been published in Asian Journal of Criminology, a journal indexed in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI).

The study is derived from a postgraduate course taught by Prof Xu titled ‘Qualitative Research Methods in Criminology and Criminal Justice’. The six students, namely Sun Guyu, Cao Wei, Fan Wenyuan, Pan Zhihao, Yao Zhaoyu, and Li Han, sat in on the class and were required to read literature on cutting-edge criminology and qualitative research methods on a weekly basis. Through analysing the data, adjusting the framework, and clarifying the logic, the students distilled the original group project into a first draft of the research article, and after repeated revisions, turned it into a publishable version.

Looking back on this valuable research experience, the six students say that the training has enhanced their understanding of academic research, the methodology involved, and the academic requirements for scholars. They also learned the importance of teamwork and achieved personal growth in the process. According to Pan Zhihao, for undergraduate students who aim to acquire experience in social science research, the best way is to treat every term paper and project seriously, because only by working hard can one find valuable research topics and opportunities to work with professors, which will help them learn what they cannot learn in the classroom. 

Titled ‘Stigma, Discrimination, and Hate Crimes in Chinese-Speaking World amid Covid-19 Pandemic’, the study was conducted through collecting data from online interviews and observations, as well as media data mining, in order to investigate changes in stigmatised groups and the types of stigma from the end of 2019, when the outbreak first began, to early April 2020, when China largely contained the first wave of COVID-19 within its border.

During the early stages of the pandemic, there were mainly acts of stigmatisation by non-Hubei Chinese people against residents of Wuhan and other cities of Hubei province, by Hong Kong and Taiwan residents against mainland residents, as well as those by Western societies against overseas Chinese. With the epidemic gradually coming under control within China and the development of the pandemic outside the country, African people in China also became the target of stigmatisation. The researchers studied various factors, such as the fear of getting infected, food culture, mask culture, political ideology, and racism, and how they influenced the stigmatisation of different victim groups. This study not only helps us understand stigmatisation in the Chinese-speaking communities during the COVID-19, but also shows the impact of different sociopolitical factors on the generation of hate crimes. 

Asian Journal of Criminology aims to promote international studies on criminology and criminal justice in Asia through publishing high-quality research articles. It advocates empirical studies on theories and policies and the use of cutting-edge methodology in evidence-based studies on criminal justice practice and public policies. The journal features comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and comparative research studies on criminology and criminal justice in Asia.