The number of offences reported in the first three months of 2020 has almost tripled compared to the same period for 2018 and 2019.
Between January and March, when the Covid-19 pandemic was intensifying within the UK, at least 267 reports of hate crime were made across the UK.
From this figure, 63 offences were recorded by the Metropolitan Police, while forces in Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Humberside and Northamptonshire have already received more reports this year than they did throughout the whole of 2019.
In total, 375 hate crimes against Chinese people were recorded last year, up from 360 in 2018.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, multiple incidents of racism against Chinese people have been reported, with victims having been spat at, punched and verbally abused in the street.
Deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton, the national policing lead for hate crime, said that “no one is responsible for the outbreak and everyone has a right to be protected from targeted abuse”.
“We know that some forces have unfortunately had reports about a small number of offenders who have committed hate crimes against those from Chinese and South East Asian communities and linked to the Covid-19 outbreak,” he told Sky News.
In March, the owner of a Chinese takeaway owner in Hitchin, Hertfordshire was “spat at” in the face by a teenage boy who demanded to know if he “had coronavirus”, in an incident recorded as a racially aggravated common assault.
Sharon So, daughter of the takeaway’s owner, told The Independent that the offender, part of a group of three, began recording her father on his phone and demanding to know if he was infected with the virus.
“He shoved his phone in my dad’s face and started shouting: ‘Do you have coronavirus? Do you have coronavirus?’
“My father ignored him at first and went into the kitchen, but the boy was still yelling at the front. So he went back out to tell him to leave, and the boy leaned over the counter, spat in my dad’s face, and ran off with the others,” Ms So said.
In a separate incident in February, Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old student from Singapore, said he was beaten up on Oxford Street in London in a racist attack.
Mr Mok said a man, who was with three or four other men and one woman, mentioned “coronavirus” before punching him in the face.
He said another member of the group then said: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country,” proceeding to then hit him on the nose.
Mr Mok, who has lived in London for two years and is studying at UCL, wrote in a Facebook post: “Racism is not stupidity – racism is hate. Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred – and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse.”
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