Covid racism: East and South East Asians feel forgotten as hate crimes rise during pandemic

Asians ITV News
The start of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment, leading to a spike in attacks against east Asians, which continue to this day.

By ITV News Multimedia Producer Ann Yip

To many east and south east Asians like me, hate and violence against people who look like us is not new - and the revelation that racist attacks have risen by nearly 50% in two years is not surprising either.

The start of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment, leading to a spike in attacks against east and south east Asians, which continue to this day.

While the coverage of anti-Asian hate crime is much more extensive in the US, awareness of what is happening has been more muted in the UK - leaving whole communities feeling forgotten.

But these attacks are happening in the UK too:

These publicised attacks are just the tip of the iceberg.

I've seen other social media posts and heard first-hand accounts of people being called "Chinese virus" randomly in the streets, children being racially abused in class, people being spat at by strangers and others being randomly attacked and verbally abused.

Yuanzhao Zhang and Daryl Law's injuries after racist attacks in the UK. Credit: UGC

One place where racism against east and south east Asians is laid bare for all to see is social media.

In posts focusing on east and south east Asian communities, I've scrolled through countless jokes about Asian people eating bats and dogs and comments blaming Chinese people for the pandemic. In the case of the Atlanta shootings, there were even jokes about "happy ending" massages.

Speaking to Yuanzhao Zhang and Daryl Law, who were targeted in racist attacks this year, and Sarah Owen MP, who is of Chinese heritage, the overwhelming feeling is that we are not being heard and the issue is not being taken seriously enough by authorities and the public.

There is also a feeling that enough is enough and it is time to speak out. But that is easier said than done.

Sarah Owen MP shows ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies some of the emails she has received from people about east and south east Asian racism. Some of the complainants do not even live in her constituency

ITV News has approached numerous victims to speak about their experiences of racist attacks for months, with many turning us down due to worries about going public with their stories.

The fear of speaking out is especially prevalent in the older generation, who often bring out the defeatist argument: "What's the point of speaking out?"

To some of our elders, the view is we should be grateful to be in this country and try to fit in by not kicking up a fuss.

But after the Atlanta shootings on March 16, which resulted in the deaths of six Asian women in the US, I witnessed an outpouring of grief, pain and fear across Asian communities in the US, UK and beyond.

East and south east Asian groups that had sprung up in the wake of Covid racism last year, like EVR, grew louder and bigger, and a Stop Asian Hate community was even launched in the UK.

While Yuanzhao, Daryl and Sarah have been fearless in speaking out about their experiences, there is still an underlying trauma, a feeling that we and our loved ones are all unsafe because of how we look.

As we made our way to the Cambridge shop where he was attacked, Yuanzhao warned me to "be careful" in general, explaining he did not think it would ever happen to him until it happened.

'Asian hate has always been an issue historically but I think the pandemic has certainly been a catalyst in terms of making things worse'

Such was the fear that martial artists James Lum and Don Law, from Typhoon Dragon Boat Club, even offered free self defence classes during the pandemic for any east or south east Asians who felt unsafe.

Racism against east and south east Asians is not a Covid problem. It has always existed and blame on Chinese people for the pandemic has made it worse, our three interviewees all said.

Yuanzhao is drumming up support and media attention after his attack, with several news outlets already having covered his story.

While getting some media attention is a step in the right direction, some are asking: Why does it take being beaten to get noticed?

If you have been impacted by anti-Asian hate crime and need support, contact End Violence and Racism against East and Southeast Asian Communities by emailing with 'Request for support' in the subject line.

If you want to share your experience of anti-Asian hate crime, contact ITV News at