'Go back 2 China': Noodle Shop Attacked With Racist Graffiti After Chef Spoke Against Lifting Mask Mandate

The graffiti—some of which echoed the rhetoric of the Trump administration—adds to the recent spate of attacks aimed at Asian Americans.
A customer enters a store with a face mask required sign displayed Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A customer enters a store with a face mask required sign displayed Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

An Asian American chef who’s fighting cancer called Texas’ move to rescind its mask mandate “selfish” and “cowardly” in a recent interview with CNN. Then his San Antonio restaurant was defaced with racist graffiti, and he started receiving death threats.

Messages including “Kung flu,” “Go back 2 China,” “No mask,” and “Hope u die” were scrawled across Mike Nguyen’s ramen shop in red paint over the weekend, causing the business, Noodle Tree, to open late on Sunday.


Strangers ultimately showed up to help wash away the vitriolic language, according to the Washington Post. As Nguyen told local ABC station KENS, he’s not Chinese but rather half Vietnamese and half French, and he’s just trying to keep himself, his staff, and his community safe from COVID-19.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called Nguyen and said he’d help to find and prosecute the person responsible for the attack, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Nguyen told the Washington Post that he considered the graffiti a hate crime. 

"Regardless of what your beliefs are, it shouldn’t have to get to that point where you wish death upon somebody,” Nguyen told KENS. "That’s what kind of enraged me was, you don’t even know who I am. All I’m trying to do is the right thing.”

The graffiti—which, in part, echoed the coronavirus rhetoric of the Trump administration—further adds to the recent spate of hatred and attacks toward Asian Americans. Nguyen had also commented on that disturbing trend during the CNN interview about his state lifting its mask mandate last week. 

“We’ve seen a lot of attacks on Asian Americans,” Nguyen, who also has lymphoma and is immunocompromised, told CNN. “That’s a huge concern for me because I have a bull’s-eye on my back.” 


Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s call to scrap Texas’ mask mandate, Nguyen noted, could also trigger confrontations between businesses and customers. Owners can still require masks of their patrons, although some businesses have received threats or hate for doing so, according to the Washington Post. 

Still, with about 11 percent of the country fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Republican governors are racing to eliminate the mask requirements, which prevent the spread of COVID-19 and in some ways keep businesses from shutting down entirely. Mississippi recently lifted mask mandates and business restrictions, and Wyoming’s mask mandate will no longer be in effect starting Tuesday. 

White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci has cautioned against dropping mask mandates too soon, noting that a lack of restrictions might cause another surge just when the U.S. is beginning to turn around. 

“Don’t spike the ball on the five-yard line. Wait until you get into the end zone. We are not in the end zone yet,” Fauci said on “Meet the Press” Sunday. 

In an Instagram post March 3, Noodle Tree noted: “No Mask No Noodz.”

In a caption, Nguyen wrote, “My stance has always been the safety of our community over profits. With respect to my current Health situation, my staff, and the community we will require anyone who enter our building to wear a mask.” However, he added that the business could provide masks to people who didn’t have them, or that patrons could order food for pickup or sit outside if they didn’t want to wear a mask.

After speaking to CNN, Nguyen said in a follow-up Instagram post that he wasn’t trying to be political and that he had been hesitant to speak up due to potential backlash. 

“Our governor has betrayed us, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow him blindly,” he wrote.