Amid criticism that repeated use of the phrase “China virus” to refer to coronavirus by Mr Trump and some of his top officials was racist, activists said they had seen violent attacks on Asian Americans increase in “leaps and bound” over the last three weeks.
This was in addition to verbal abuse, slurs and other racist rhetoric that members of the community have suffered.
The activists said they welcomed the president’s public call this week to protect the nation’s Asian American community, but that it was a “long overdue correction”.
“Since January we’ve been expressing concern about anti-Asian sentiment and people using terms that are not recognised by the medical experts for Covid-19, and to avoid terms that stigmatise communities, such as ‘Kung Flu’ or the ‘Chinese virus’,” said John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
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“Unfortunately we’ve seen an increase by leaps and bounds of incidents, and literal physical violence against Asian Americans.”
Mr Yang was speaking at an online seminar hosted by the Council of Korean Americans to address what it termed the “rising tide of anti-Asian sentiment”.
Mr Yang, whose organisation is is based in Washington DC, said it had recorded 400 incidents of violence within the last 21 days.
“And let me be clear, we’re not just talking about racial epithets racial slurs, which obviously for our community is bad enough,” he added.
“We’re talking about physical violence, we’re talking about people getting kicked, people getting punched, people getting physically assaulted. Only for the fact that they are Asian American, and there is this perception and misinformation out there about what coronavirus really is.”
The event was held a day after Mr Trump tweeted, and then later repeated the remarks at a White House, that it was important to protect the Asian American community. He said they were not responsible for the spread of the virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Just days earlier he had defended his use of term “Chinese coronavirus”, saying “it comes from China, it’s not racist at all”.
The World Health Organization and others have stopped using geographic terms for such diseases.
Gregg Orton, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said of Mr Trump’s words: “It’s certainly worth acknowledging the president’s tweet, I would say it’s a long overdue correction.”
Madalene Mielke, president of Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, added: I very much appreciate president Trump addressing this issue. I hope that other elected leaders will also follow.”