Covid racism fuels 80% rise in hate crimes against east and south east Asians in London

ITV News Senior Correspondent Ronke Phillips meets some of London's victims of hate crime

Hate crimes against east and south east Asian community in London increased 80% during the Covid pandemic, new figures seen by ITV News show.

London has the highest number of reported hate crimes amid rising attacks on east and south east Asians, according to a study shared exclusively with ITV News, that found reported attacks against east and south east Asians in the UK have risen by nearly 50% in two years.

Hate crimes in London rose 80% from 323 to 581 between 2019 and 2020, and the capital now accounts for a quarter of all UK hate crimes in 2020.

Data compiled by End Violence and Racism Against East and Southeast Asian Communities (EVR) reveals hate crime against east and south east Asians have been rising year-on-year since 2018.

The biggest increase was between 2019 and 2020, amid the start of the pandemic. There was a 27% increase as crimes rose from 1,742 to 2,212.

Between 2018 to 2019, the rise was 17%.

More than half - 60% - of police forces that responded to Freedom of Information requests reported an increase in east and south east Asian hate crime last year.

Of 46 police forces in the UK, 30 responded to FOI requests.

Types of hate crimes reported include assault, robbery, stalking and harassment, sexual assault, and threats to kill.

There are many more hate incidents that have not been recorded due to people not reporting crimes to police, the different ways in which forces categorise hate crimes by race and police forces failing to provide information on east and south east Asian hate crimes.

Daryl Law after he was punched in a race hate attack. Credit: UGC

From January 2019 to January 2020 hate crimes were reported to have increased in 19 out of 30 (over 60%) of institutions from which data was provided. This includes:

  • 80% increase from 323 to 581 in Metropolitan Police from 2019 to 2020

  • 192% increase from 12 to 35 in Essex from 2019 to 2020

  • 91% increase from 11 to 21 in Hertfordshire from 2019 to 2020

  • An increase from 0 to 5 in City of London from 2019 to 2020

Eleven of the 30 of the institutions that provided data reported decreases in hate crimes against ESEA people from 2019-2020, including a 5% decrease from 266 to 253 in Surrey from 2019 to 2020.A spokesperson for EVR said about the rise in hate crimes between 2019 and 2020: "This will not surprise anyone who has been paying attention."

'I don't want my son to know his dad got attacked,' Mr Law said as he explained his five-year-old son has no concept yet of what racism is

Calling on the government and police to address hate crimes against east and south east Asians, they said there needs to be better data recording to understand the problem, more support for communities and better education of east and south east Asian histories.

Daryl Law, was nearly left blind in April after a stranger in Ealing, London, punched him and told he didn't belong in the country.

Mr Law was on his way home during lockdown when he walked past a couple who did not give him enough space to pass on the pavement and the man shoulder barged him into a wall.

He told ITV News what happened when he tried to confront the man: "The guy actually said, 'You don't belong here and you should go back to’ and he didn't finish his sentence. And he just sucker-punched me in the eye.

Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, said the figures show the "bare minimum" of what is actually happening.

As an MP with Chinese heritage and who spoke out on the issue of east and south east Asian racism in Parliament, she has been flooded with hundreds of emails from people writing about the racism that they faced, regardless of whether they lived in her constituency.

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.

She said: "When I raised it in Parliament, I wasn't prepared for the reaction afterwards, if I'm perfectly honest, the huge number of people that got in touch to say how much it meant to them."

She continued: "And there were people that cried speaking to me about how much that debate meant to them because they had experienced racism throughout their life, particularly when they were children as well, and how much it meant to be able to have representation in Parliament on this issue."

One woman spoke about having to wrap a scarf over her head so people could not see she is Chinese.

Another spoke about suffering from agoraphobia since the beginning of the pandemic.

And one white man spoke about being called "Mr Corona" while out walking with his Filipino wife.

And the MP herself has been the target racism during the pandemic.

While Ms Owen receives abusive online messages on a day-to-day basis, she said one incident that has stuck with her happened when was walking out of the Houses of Parliament.

She said: "This woman just pointed at me and shouted, 'Watch out, Corona's about,' and at first, I thought, is that aimed at me?

"And then I could see her actually pointing at me and just like laughing and it hurt.

"It brought back every emotion you felt when you were a kid being, being laughed at for what you look like and who you are.

"And since then, people have asked why I didn't report it, and I just thought, because it's not going to go anywhere. I wasn't convinced that it would be taken seriously and that it would be marked down as actually a racist attack."

The MP said part of reason for "huge levels of under-reporting" is due to a lack of trust with authorities and a tendency in older generations to keep quiet and avoid conflict. She called on the government to take the issue seriously.

A Home Office spokesperson said the government is "committed to tackling hate crime" and its Hate Crime Action plan has had a positive impact.

They said the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed a long-term decline in hate crime and that "increases in police-recorded hate crime is driven by improvements in crime recording and a better indication of what constitutes a hate crime".

Mr Zhang has set up a petition calling on authorities to properly investigate anti-Asian hate crimes in Cambridge and is also appealing for people to share their experiences.

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.