SINGAPORE: A Singaporean student in London said he was assaulted after he reacted to passers-by who were making comments about his race and COVID-19.
Mr Jonathan Mok, 23, said he was walking along Oxford Street in London on Feb 24 when he heard a racist comment and the word "coronavirus" from some youths.
Mr Mok then turned to look at them, because he did not want them to think he was afraid and that "Asians are easily bullied".
"I felt really angry ... It is ridiculous people are being targeted for being Asian," he told CNA on Tuesday (Mar 3).
Mr Mok has lived in London for two years while studying at UCL, but travels back to Singapore during his summer holidays.
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"DON'T YOU DARE LOOK AT ME, YOU ..."
After he looked at them, Mr Mok said one of the youths shouted: "Don’t you dare look at me, you …". He did not catch the last word because of the man’s accent.
The youths – three or four men and a woman – then approached him, Mr Mok said, adding that they "seemed no older than 20 years old, but were all more than a head taller than me".
Suddenly, 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, said Mr Mok. His nose started bleeding and blood was splattered all across the pavement, he added.
The group left the scene before the police arrived. Immediately after the assault, Mr 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 the shop owners of the store he was attacked in front of, and the police have yet to contact them regarding CCTV footage.
POLICE URGE WITNESSES TO COME FORWARD
In response to CNA queries, London's Metropolitan Police Service confirmed on Tuesday that they are investigating a racially aggravated assault that took place along Oxford Street at about 9.15pm on Feb 24.
The victim was punched and sustained facial injuries, said the Met Police.
Investigations are ongoing to identify the suspects, including an assessment of available CCTV, they said.
No arrests have been made, the police said, and asked witnesses to come forward.
The Met Police were unable to provide CNA with data relating to the number of racially aggravated incidents connected to COVID-19.
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Mr Mok told CNA that he was angry because he knew he was outnumbered, and could not fight back as they were all taller than him and he was recovering from a broken finger in an earlier incident.
Mr Mok said he has heard other similar racist comments, “but nothing so overt” so far.
“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 added.
Mr Mok told CNA he is now more wary in public but tries not to allow it to affect his life.
“I do everything as if it were normal ... I'm not afraid of these people and I refuse to let them think I am afraid of them.”