A Singaporean student in London was assaulted after he reacted to passers-by who were making comments about his race and the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Jonathan Mok, 23, has lived in London for two years while studying at University College London but returned to Singapore during his summer holidays.
He said he was walking along Oxford Street in London on February 24 when he heard a racist comment and the word “coronavirus” from some youths.
Mok then turned to look at them, saying it was because he did not want them to think he was afraid and that “Asians are easily bullied”.
“I felt really angry,” Mok said on Tuesday. “It is ridiculous that people are being targeted for being Asian.”
After he looked at them, Mok said one of the youths shouted: “Don’t you dare look at me.”
The youths – three or four men and a woman – then approached him, Mok said, adding that they “seemed no older than 20 years old, but were all more than a head taller than me”.
He was punched in the face twice, he said, and another attacker attempted to kick him as he tried to explain what was happening to another passer-by.
The man who tried to kick him then said: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country,” before punching him again, Mok said. His nose started bleeding and blood was splattered all across the pavement, he added.
The group left the scene before the police arrived. Mok said he focused on stopping his nose from bleeding, and returned home after the police and ambulance let him go. He also said that he has spoken to shop owners near the scene of the attack, and the police have yet to contact them regarding CCTV footage.
London’s Metropolitan Police on Tuesday confirmed they were investigating and treating it as a racially aggravated assault in which the victim was punched and sustained facial injuries. Investigations were ongoing to identify the suspects, including an assessment of available CCTV, they said.
Mok said the coronavirus had led to heightened incidences of racism, but that he has tried to carry on his life as normal.
“I’ve had friends who were rejected by shops in another European city because they were Chinese, where the owners simply said they don’t want the coronavirus,” he said.