Numbers reveal rise in hate crime against Chinese people in Yorkshire leading up to coronavirus lockdown

Hate crimes reported against Chinese people rose in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, data has revealed.

Figures from the four Yorkshire police forces show a rise in recorded hate crimes levelled at victims of Chinese or other South East Asian ethnicity between January 1 and March 23 this year, compared with the same period in previous years.

Humberside Police has even detailed incidents such as victims being told to "go back to your country" and "take your coronavirus with you", and even one occasion where a man in a shop with a child was told, "with you in here we'll all get coronavirus".

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Data requested under the Freedom of Information Act revealed South Yorkshire Police recorded 24 hate crimes against victims of perceived Chinese ethnicity in the period leading up to March 23, when Boris Johnson announced lockdown restrictions. For context, there were 36 such crimes in 2019 as a whole, and 31 throughout the entirety of 2018.

A man pictured wearing a face covering in Chinatown, Manchester, in January this year as hate crimes against Chinese people rose in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic

West Yorkshire Police revealed there were 11 reports of hate crime-related offences against victims of Chinese, Japanese or other South East Asian ethnicity between January 1 and March 23, when lockdown was announced. This figure was up from four offences in the same period the year before, and six the year before that.

North Yorkshire Police recorded two crimes in the same period this year, although there was only one hate crime against a Chinese victim both in 2019 and 2018.

The number of hate crimes in Humberside meanwhile was the same in this period as it was for the entirety of 2019; Humberside Police recorded six offences between January 1 and March 23 this year, with five throughout the whole of last year and six the year before.

The same force also revealed details of offences where coronavirus was a motivating factor. In one instance, a man was reported climbing into a victim's garden with rocks before shouting, "get back to your own country you coronavirus *****". On another occasion, a male security guard in a shop was told, "go back to China and take your coronavirus with you" after detaining two people over a suspected theft.

An academic has said fake news and politicians referring to Covid-19 as 'the Chinese virus' have contributed to coronavirus-motivated hate crimes

Dr Daniel Kilvington, a lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, said it was "not surprising" that offences had risen, citing a combination of factors such as intense media coverage of the pandemic showing repetitive images of South East Asian people wearing face masks, references to coronavirus as "the Chinese virus" and social media creating "echo chambers" allowing fake news to spread.

Dr Kilvington said: "We know coronavirus began in Wuhan and we've seen many images in the media of people wearing face masks. It's intensified fear of 'the other', and that's how racism operates - through homogenising and stereotyping entire groups of people and elevating suspicions.

"What we have seen in certain politicians labelling Covid-19 as 'the Chinese virus' also does not help. When you are a politician and have a huge platform, you have the power to influence thousands and thousands of people. This is damaging and can easily lead to spikes in hate crime."

US President Donald Trump caused controversy after referring to the disease as "the Chinese virus" in a White House press conference, prompting accusations of inciting racism.

The University of York released a statement in February condemning ignorance after reports of hate crime off the back of the first positive cases of the virus being confirmed.

Dr Kilvington added: "Although Covid has originated in China, it has intensified that fear where an entire group of people is being blamed for an outbreak."

In February this year, the University of York released a statement calling for "respect and tolerance" following reports of racism against Chinese students and staff on its campus. The statement followed the first recorded case of coronavirus in the country after a Chinese student and a relative who had recently arrived from their home country both tested positive for Covid-19.

The same month, a Chinese student in Sheffield was reportedly assaulted by people demanding to know why she was wearing a face mask.

All four police forces have reiterated that rises in hate crime over time are because of more awareness and reporting.

Figures from the four Yorkshire police forces show a rise in recorded hate crimes levelled at victims of Chinese or other South East Asianethnicity

West Yorkshire Police said it was "committed to engaging with communities to increase the under-reporting of hate crimes", employing specialist hate crime co-ordinators across districts.

Humberside said: "The physical and verbal abuse suffered by victims of hate crime will not be tolerated in Humberside and we urge anyone who has experienced it to report it. Victims will be taken seriously and they will be believed. This is not something they just have to put up with."