From “looks of disgust”, physical assaults and being coughed at, the level of racist abuse against Asians has stoked fear in the community, which has withstood a wave of hate crime over the past year.
In 2020, Metropolitan police figures revealed that between January and June they had recorded a total of 457 race-related crimes against people of “Oriental” ethnicity or those who self-defined as Chinese.
The Independent reported that in February alone last year 64 incidents of racist hate crimes against “Oriental” victims had been recorded – this is more than twice the number in the previous year which stood at 29.
In March, this figure rose again to 101, nearly three times as more than in March 2019 and 2018.
Nepalese musician, Kanti Gurung, 22, who lives in North Acton, London, said: “I was in Asia before the pandemic was announced and when I left England everything was still fine but when I came back to London everything was shut down, people were isolated and scared to walk on the streets.
“That is when I noticed the difference and straightaway, I felt this social disillusionment of me for being Asian.
The 22-year-old, who has since returned to Korea to visit her sister, said that it was when she heard about Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean student, who was heavily beaten during a racist attack, that she realised how serious things were.
The UCL law student was assaulted on Oxford Street, London in February 2020 by a group of boys in an ‘unprovoked attack,’ where they told him “we don’t want your coronavirus in our country.”
A 16-year-old boy, who was involved in the violent act, was convicted earlier this year for racially aggravated grievous bodily harm following a trial at Highbury Corner Youth Court.
And it was just last month on February 25, a year on from Mr Mok’s attack that a bloody image of Peng Wang, a university lecturer, circulated on social media after he was also beaten and left needing treatment.
The 37-year-old from Southampton was punched and kicked to the ground by a group of men, after they allegedly yelled racist slurs at him and became violent when he shouted back.
A 23-year-old man was arrested and has since been released but Hampshire Constabulary is still appealing for witnesses to come forward.
Like Ms Gurung, many other Asian’s in London and across the country are grappling with heightened anxiety about their safety.
But she says after years of being taught to “keep quiet and not fight back” they’re now reclaiming their voices and speaking up.
John Barco, 24, a Filipino from Newham, London, told the Standard that racism against Asians is not “new” but it has simply been exacerbated because of the pandemic.
His comments come after an early study by Ipsos, looking into people’s behaviour, found that one in seven Britons in the UK had said at the start of the pandemic that they would start to avoid people of Chinese appearance or origin.
Mr Barco said that such reports and attacks made him “scared” for his mother, a nurse, who often travels on her own.
“My mother’s colleagues are also Filipino and one of them got close to being physically attacked on the bus and then another one got verbally abused, just because she was Asian.
“That was pretty much it, just because she was Asian during a time where Covid was at its highest and everyone decided to make the link between Asia and us as though we were the viruses,” he added.
The 24-year-old said he wished he could be there for his mother 24/7 and pick her up from work but he is not able to.
“Both my parents work so it’s not always a case where my dad and I can pick my mum up so sometimes she comes home by herself.
“It’s gotten to a point where I can’t take it anymore, seeing and hearing all the stuff happening to people that look like me.
“I think it’s important to talk about the issue of Asian hate crime because not enough is being done about it and we can see it’s becoming more and more prominent across the world and it’s important to let people know we don’t stand for it.”