On the night of April 22 this year, Mi Gao Huang Chen and his girlfriend and business partner Eileen Jia Ming-yan were working at their restaurant, the Superb Hut Chinese Takeaway, in Wigan in northwestern England. The pair had emigrated separately to Britain from China several years ago and in late 2003 had opened the restaurant together in the Scholes district of Wigan, a town of 300,000 about 30km west of Manchester. Since the start, they'd experienced constant racial abuse, harassment and attacks by local youths. They had complained several times to the police, who either responded ineffectively or not at all. On this Friday night, the pair hoped for a peaceful night but it was not to be. The trouble began early. Four young men came in, sat down and started smoking. Ms Jia, 29, asked them to leave, but they ignored her. She threatened to lock them in and call the police to get them to leave. Moments later, the sound of breaking glass came from the back. Ms Jia opened the back door to see half a dozen young men, who'd been throwing beer bottles at the restaurant, run away. The couple called the police and one customer had to get on the line to tell them how serious the harassment was. Just after that, yet more kids threw a heavy gym weight through the front window. Ms Jia used her mobile phone's video camera to record the culprits. The police arrived and drove around with Ms Jia in an unsuccessful attempt to find the youths. The officers asked the couple whether they knew the names or addresses of the teens involved. But when they said no, the police left. The next night brought more trouble. After their experience the previous night with the police, Huang Chen, 41, decided to follow some of the youths in his car, but turned back after one threw a stone at his car. When he returned to the restaurant, Ms Jia was waiting for him on the footpath. Before they could go inside, a gang of about 20 teens carrying sticks, pipes and garden tools appeared over the grassy hill across the street. As they turned to retreat, a girl punched Ms Jia in the face and ran off with a young man. Huang Chen gave chase, but Ms Jia ran after him, calling for him to come back. She tripped and Huang Chen returned to help her. That's when the gang descended, beating them with metal pipes, wooden planks, a garden spade and a hoe. 'Ms Jia received ... numerous blows to her head, legs and body. All the youths set upon Huang Chen with their weapons and kicks aiming at his head,' according to a report by Jabez Lam Wai-yiu of Min Quan, a community activist group. The gang of teenagers fled as the police arrived. The couple were rushed to hospital. Ms Jia had extensive injuries, while Huang Chen suffered numerous broken bones and sank into a coma. He died on April 28. The police arrested dozens of youths, charging six with murder. Their trial is set for October 24. It may be an extreme case, but the assault on Huang Chen and Ms Jia is not an isolated incident. Chinese all over Britain are suffering growing racial harassment, community leaders say. 'What's happened is that things have gotten worse, definitely,' said David Suen, a volunteer worker with Min Quan, which is also the Chinese arm of London's anti-racism organisation, the Monitoring Group. 'We've noticed that attacks have become more frequent and we've dealt with a few murders.' The Chinese community is relatively small and scattered across the country, leaving it without a strong support network. Many Chinese run takeaway restaurants, which bear the brunt of racial abuse. The problem is compounded by the fact that few are willing to speak out, which means victims don't usually report abuse to the police until it gets really serious. It also means racial assaults don't make headlines the same way they do when it involves blacks or South Asians, two of Britain's predominant ethnic minorities. The British government has contributed to the problem by taking a hard line on immigration and asylum, Mr Suen said. Outside of multicultural London, it's also hard for immigrants to integrate into British society. 'In general, if you're not British and white you're still seen as a foreigner and still seen as a threat,' Mr Suen said. Britain's earliest Chinese immigrants were seamen who jumped ship in the 19th century and settled around docks and port cities such as Liverpool and the docklands of London's East End. Over the years, the community has grown to about 400,000, according to Min Quan's estimates. The catering or restaurant industry is the biggest employer in the Chinese community, with 9,500 takeaway outlets and 1,500 restaurants in the country. In almost every town, big or small, you'll find one or two Chinese takeaways. In many cases, the staff and owners will be the only Chinese in the town. That, and the fact that the victims tend not to fight back, makes them easy targets, said Lisa Mok, assistant director of the Wai Yin Chinese Women's Society, a community centre in Manchester. 'I think I can say with confidence that 99 per cent of takeaway shops have been disturbed by people,' said Ms Mok, who runs a hate-crime reporting centre at Wai Yin. She cites a recent event held by the centre which was attended by about 90 restaurant owners or staff. Almost all of them had been harassed, but few reported it to the police. Why? 'The first thing is the language barrier, and also they don't see the point of reporting to police because they tend to come very late anyway, and they don't take care of them.' Ms Mok, who's been working at Wai Yin for six years and helped start the hate-crime centre two years ago, has heard numerous stories of Chinese restaurant owners who were harassed or assaulted. She says one or two people come in each month to report an assault and she blames it partly on the 'yob' culture of British youths. 'I don't know about other countries, but in the UK, teenagers and anti-social behaviour - this problem is extremely bad at the moment,' she said. Ms Mok has stories of other racial harassment. One restaurant was harassed by teenagers but the owners wouldn't report it to police, she said. The abuse got so bad that one day the chef chased after the teens because they were disturbing the owner, and as a result was arrested by police for anti-social behaviour. In another case, a restaurant was harassed every day for a year until the owners finally reported it. There are many other examples of racial abuse reported by Min Quan or small community newspapers. In another gruesome attack, a man tried to slit the throat of a Chinese market trader in Glasgow. The 34-year-old victim, who had been in the country only a few months, was working at his friend's stall selling purses and sunglasses when the man grabbed him from behind and tried to slash his throat. The victim survived, but barely. Last year, a former football player in Aberdeen, Scotland, and another teenager pleaded guilty to assaulting two Chinese, leaving one of them in a coma. In Scotland, the owners of another family-run restaurant reported last October a racial hate campaign by as many as 30 youths who terrorised them and their customers every night. Hard statistics on the exact number of racial harassment incidents directed at Chinese in Britain are hard to come by. Community leaders say Chinese victims' reluctance to call police means the number of cases is probably underreported, while police resist classifying most attacks as racially motivated. Mr Lam, the community case worker with Min Quan, said in his five years with the group he'd dealt with nearly 400 racial harassment cases. 'They're similar in the sense that small Chinese takeaways, small restaurants in isolated areas, become targets of local youth, targets for racial abuse, attack and harassment,' he said. As for Ms Jia, her troubles are not over yet. After she was discharged from hospital, she tried to run the restaurant by herself, but gave up 10 weeks later when five cooks she hired all quit after finding out the restaurant was the scene of a murder. To add to her misery, the police in June charged her with common assault and the more serious offence of affray, which carries up to five years in jail, for defending herself. According to Min Quan's report, a girl claimed Ms Jia assaulted her with a wrench. The charges have resulted in an outpouring of support and sympathy for Ms Jia, and Mr Lam said about 600 people had signed an online petition to get the charges dismissed. Ms Jia's lawyers filed an application for dismissal with the prosecutor on September 15 and the judge has adjourned proceedings until October 31, so he can study the case.