Racist abuse towards Asian communities in Britain has rocketed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic figures obtained by HuffPost UK reveal.
Racially-aggravated assault, harassment and robbery are among the huge rises in hate crime against Southeast and East Asians recorded by the British Transport Police (BTP) and the Metropolitan Police, according to data gathered by freedom of information requests.
In February, 64 race hate crimes were recorded in London by the Met, up from 20 in January and the highest number since 2018.
In the first three month of 2020, BTP registered 42 race hate crimes even with the reduced use of transport stipulated by government advice, more than 400% of the levels recorded last year when there were nine.
Mike Ainsworth, of charity Stop Hate UK, said: “The figures are very alarming and quite clearly linked to Covid-19.”
He added that hate crime is “very susceptible” to political rhetoric and that a number of attacks the charity had heard of involved attackers citing Donald Trump’s “Chinese virus” phrase.
“It’s regrettable the UK government hasn’t shown moral leadership in condemning this racist abuse,” said Ainsworth.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said the government had “consistently condemned” racist hate crime directed at the Chinese community, and has been asked to provide examples.
Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
Sarah Owen, Labour MP and chair of Chinese for Labour, said: “We need to make it unequivocally clear that no ethnicity or nationality is responsible for, or is the source of, the virus.”
She warned that with the softening of lockdown racist attacks could rise again and that the government “should have had a plan in place”.
Dr Yinxuan Huang, a sociology researcher at the University of Manchester, who has been researching how the Chinese Christian community in Britain reacts to the pandemic, suggested the real figures were likely to be far higher.
“The community is probably suffering more than the numbers could tell because there are many invisible, unreported cases,” said Huang. “In all the stories I’ve heard, the victims did not report it to the police.”
Binna Kandola, a professor at Leeds University who researches cases involving spitting, death threats and violent assault, said: “There is a perception that things that happen to Chinese communities don’t really matter and it’s not worth bothering about.”
A survey by Prof Kandola found that half of more than 400 people surveyed, mostly British-born Chinese, had experienced or witnessed discrimination since coronavirus emerged.
“It could have quite a profound effect on their identity,” he added. “These are feelings that can’t be forgotten. Some people said they might leave the UK.”
Southeast and East Asian communities represent less than 1% of the UK population, according to census data.
Jenny Pattinson, 41, who works in banking, said she was spat on when getting off a bus at Waterloo Station in late February.
“I felt something hit my head and I turned around and saw two men there,” she said. “I’m a woman, and I was on my own so I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Pattinson, who was born in Luton to parents from Malaysia and Scotland, added: “I feel alien. I feel more aware that I look different and that I’m not accepted by other people. I don’t feel safe in the streets anymore.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no place in our society for this vile and divisive behaviour and we will continue to work across government and with the police to bear down on offenders, support victims and eradicate this prejudice.”