The outpouring of grief and anger over the news that six Asian women were among those killed in the shootings at three Atlanta area massage parlors has drawn attention to the rise of anti-Asian violence in the US. And it’s not just an American problem. From the UK to Australia, reports of anti-East and anti-Southeast Asian hate crimes have increased in Western countries as the pandemic took hold this past year. At least 11 people of East and Southeast Asian descent CNN spoke to described racist and xenophobic incidents, such as people moving away from them on the train, verbal abuse and even physical assault.
The past year has seen some Western politicians repeatedly stress China’s connection to the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as raise the rhetoric against the Asian superpower. Within this environment, advocates say people of East Asian and Southeast Asian heritage have increasingly become a target for racism.
But many European countries, including France, Germany and Belgium, do not collect demographic data on ethnicity for historical reasons, making it difficult to take an accurate measure of the scale of the problem. Hate crime statistics are recorded in the UK. Figures form the London Metropolitan Police show more than 200 incidents of hate crime against people of East Asian appearance happened between June and September 2020 — a 96% increase compared to the same period a year ago.
Peng Wang, a lecturer at Southampton University in southern England, says he was physically assaulted by a group of four men while jogging near his home one cold afternoon. The men yelled racial slurs at the 37-year-old, including “Chinese virus,” he told CNN. They got out of the car after Wang yelled back at them, punching him in the face and kicking him to the ground. He suffered minor facial injuries and a nose bleed, but the trauma of the event made him worry about leaving his home, his future in the UK and the safety of his young son, he told CNN.