With the coronavirus edging towards becoming a global pandemic, panic is setting in with more than 92,000 reported cases and 3,100 deaths around the world.
Unfortunately, the spread of the coronavirus—which was first reported in December 2019 in the Wuhan region of central China—is also stoking misinformation and fears resulting in racially-provoked attacks.
A group of men brutally attacked a young Asian student in London, and one of them yelled:
"I don't want your coronavirus in my country."
Disgusting racist attack on an Asian man on Oxford Street by a group of men who said 'coronavirus' and then assault… https://t.co/OiuzzO3Gbq— TellMAMAUK (@TellMAMAUK)1583227042.0
"It is without doubt that the medical effects of the COVID-19 has taken the front stage in issues across the world (and rightfully so)."
"However, when we have been focusing solely on the health effects of the coronavirus, we fail to see the social effects that has surfaced from the spread of this virus— where racism has found yet another excuse to rear its ugly head."
This is utterly disgusting & despicable. There is no place for such appalling racism & violence Jonathan Mok, on b… https://t.co/Nge7IvMh6i— Benedict Rogers (@Benedict Rogers)1583260375.0
Mok, who is from Singapore, had been matriculating in a London school for two years.
He never thought he would become a victim of a violent racist attack in the U.K.
"Personally, I have had experienced several racist statements directed to me in the past weeks, some involving references to the coronavirus."
"However, stories and videos of racially-motivated assaults always seem like they would never happen to you."
"After all, people might be racist and might say things, but surely, they wouldn't dare attack you, especially on one of the busiest streets in London?"
The student said he was walking along Oxford Street around 9:15 p.m. on February 24 when he encountered his would-be attackers.
"I walked past a group of young men, when I saw one of them look at me (just as he walked past me) and said something to me, which I could make out the word 'coronavirus.'"
"I was stunned and turned around to have a look at the man made the statement. He was still staring at me as he walked past and realised I was looking at him."
"He shouted 'Don't you dare look at me, you ____' (I could not catch the last word because of the accent). Within 3 seconds, he was in my face, together with 3/4 other young men, and a young lady (all of whom seemed no older than 20 years old, but were all more than a head taller than me)."
Mok was still processing the shock over the unprovoked verbal attack, when suddenly, the first punch to his face caught him off guard.
"When I was still shocked by the first hit, the guy delivered the second sucker punch."
"By then, a few passers-by had stopped and one of them tried to reason with them that 4 on 1 was not fair. The attacker's friend tried to swing a kick at me as I was explaining to the passer-by that I hadn't done anything at all."
"I tried to react in self-defence but couldn't do anything substantial because I was still recovering from a broken finger in my master hand."
"The guy who tried to kick me then said, 'I don't want your coronavirus in my country', before swinging another sucker punch at me, which resulted in my face exploding with blood (from my nose), where the blood was splattered all across the pavement."
@TellMamaUK So they suspect the poor fellow of having coronavirus and then proceed to get into physical contact wit… https://t.co/Dw08OLXgZ6— Michael Rizzello (@Michael Rizzello)1583242462.0
Eventually the group left him lying helpless and bleeding on the street before the police arrived.
@BBCLondonNews This was an unconscionable and cowardly assault born out of the most simplistic of thinking, that is… https://t.co/ZXqyKZYDW2— ReasonableDoctor (@ReasonableDoctor)1583258041.0
The Metropolitan Police—who described the attack as "a racially aggravated assault"—released four images of Mok's alleged attackers captured by surveillance cameras.
Detective Sergeant Emma Kirby said:
"This attack left the victim shaken and hurt. There's no room on our streets for this kind of violent behaviour and we are committed to finding the perpetrators."
"I am keen to speak to anyone who has information about this assault. I would like to identify and speak to the four men pictured who may be able to help me with our enquiries."
CCTV released of group police wish to speak to after racially-motivated coronavirus attack London Met Police relea… https://t.co/SdJNjcUbAP— Socialist Voice 🌐 (@Socialist Voice 🌐)1583333787.0
@benedictrogers @badiucao The most sad thing about this is that he's not even a Chinese national.— DSR (@DSR)1583289522.0
Doctors told Mok he suffered a few fractures in his face.
He might require reconstructive surgery.
@TellMamaUK Heartbreaking. I wish Mr Mok a swift recovery, both from the physical injuries and the undoubtedly sign… https://t.co/67MVLww5Fp— Phil Smith (@Phil Smith)1583273577.0
@TellMamaUK @compassion_heal I hope he heals soon ❤️😩— Elle 🇱🇻🌈 (@Elle 🇱🇻🌈)1583267968.0
His attack in the backdrop of the coronavirus outrbreak forced him to redefine racism.
"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."
"From refusing service to a Chinese-looking person to racially-motivated hate crimes, every single one of these acts are based on racism."
@TellMamaUK what sick wan**rs, any excuse to beat someone up.i hope they get them and throw away the keys. Poor bo… https://t.co/YdkqGgQU52— tina j (@tina j)1583276615.0
@BBCLondonNews With all these #Coronavirus related attacks on asians, were quickly becoming seen as a really… https://t.co/f24pFahsuf— Wing Hoo Chéung (@Wing Hoo Chéung)1583255577.0
Mok told BBC that he couldn't understand why people would target someone based on their skin color.
"It just doesn't make sense at all."
He also expounded on the misconception of face masks.
"When people see Asians wearing face masks, they ultimately assume that they're ill."
"I've heard incidences where people get shouted at on the Tube for wearing face masks, which is completely ridiculous because they're trying to protect themselves and trying to protect you as well."
Lucy Duncan, a specialist who trains bystander intervention tactics for American Friends Service Committee, said confronting an attacker is risky but also said that staying silent does not help either.
@TellMamaUK @compassion_heal How on earth did people walk by and allow this young man to be assaulted in Oxford St?… https://t.co/1Qy4okxhni— SarahBella #NotMySoddin’Brexit (@SarahBella #NotMySoddin’Brexit)1583247312.0
Duncan told CNN:
"The danger is if we don't speak up for each other, the number of people being targeted is going to be expanding."
"If they don't intervene, that kind of violence or that kind of incident becomes normalized."
People coming down with COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan—the Chinese capital of the Hubei province along the Yangtze and Han rivers.
It has since spread to 30 known countries, with significant outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, and Iran.