A student from Singapore currently studying in London says he was brutally beaten up in what police are calling a “racially aggravated” attack driven by panic over the new coronavirus.
Jonathan Mok, 23, said that he was walking down Oxford Street, a busy shopping avenue in London, around 9 p.m. on Feb. 24 when he heard voices yelling “coronavirus” at him. Mok said that he then tried to confront the four men, but they started beating him up, shouting, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”
On Wednesday, British police shared images of four men they want to interview in connection with the attack, and Detective Sergeant Emma Kirby said they are “committed to finding the perpetrators,” according to BBC News.
Mok posted about the alleged attack on Facebook on Monday, and shared photos (which he has since taken down) of his injuries — facial fractures, swelling and a black eye — which doctors told him may require an operation to fix.
“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,” Mok wrote.
“Racism has changed it form and shape through the years and it is once again rearing its ugly head in light of the COVID-19 crisis.”
In an earlier post, which he has since edited, Mok said that he was punched in the face twice and “exploded with blood,” according to The Washington Post.
“To those people who told me that London isn’t racist, think again,” he had written. “Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred — and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse.”
Countries worldwide are reporting an increase in racist language and attacks during the coronavirus outbreak, and the World Health Organization and, in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control, have called out any discrimination against people of Asian descent.
In mid-February, an Asian American high school student in Los Angeles was attacked by bullies who accused him of having coronavirus.
“Right now, we need to do everything to reaffirm our support to the [Asian Pacific Islander] community,” LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a press conference after the attack.
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