Coronavirus has been spreading across the United States in recent days, with five deaths in King County, Washington. According to some estimates, around 1,500 people may have been infected by the first two people who died.
People around the world are understandably concerned about the virus, but in some places, that concern is giving way to hatred.
Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old studying in the United Kingdom, took to Facebook on Monday saying that he was attacked by a group of men in London. Mok says one of the attackers yelled at him, "I don’t want your coronavirus in my country."
Mok shared photos of his bruised face on Facebook, describing what happened to him and urging others to stand up to racism.
Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and has sparked hatred against Asian communities around the world, according to some reports.
Mok explained in his post: "When we have been focusing solely on the health effects of the coronavirus, we fail to see the social effects that have surfaced from the spread of this virus— where racism has found yet another excuse to rear its ugly head."
Mok's post continued:
"Racist assaults in the past few weeks have been on the rise, with videos and stories of Asian people being targeted — be it verbally or physically. Personally, I have had experienced several racist statements directed to me in the past weeks, some involving references to the coronavirus. However, stories and videos of racially-motivated assaults always seem like they would never happen to you. After all, people might be racist and might say things, but surely, they wouldn’t dare attack you, especially on one of the busiest streets in London?"
The student then went on to detail the attack.
"Last Monday, at roughly 9.15pm on Oxford Street in London, I walked past a group of young men, when I saw one of them look at me (just as he walked past me) and said something to me, which I could make out the word ‘coronavirus’. I was stunned and turned around to have a look at the man who made the statement."
"He was still staring at me as he walked past and realised I was looking at him. He shouted ‘Don’t you dare look at me, you ____’ (I could not catch the last word because of the accent). Within 3 seconds, he was in my face, together with 3/4 other young men, and a young lady (all of whom seemed no older than 20 years old, but were all more than a head taller than me). I was shocked and angry because he directed a racist remark at me and had the audacity to shout at me like I had wronged him."
"All of a sudden, the first punch was swung at my face and took me by surprise. When I was still shocked by the first hit, the guy delivered the second sucker punch. By then, a few passers-by had stopped and one of them tried to reason with them that 4 on 1 was not fair. The attacker’s friend tried to swing a kick at me as I was explaining to the passer-by that I hadn’t done anything at all. I tried to react in self-defence but couldn’t do anything substantial because I was still recovering from a broken finger in my master hand."
"The guy who tried to kick me then said, ‘I don’t want your coronavirus in my country’, before swinging another sucker punch at me, which resulted in my face exploding with blood (from my nose), where the blood was splattered all across the pavement. Still in daze and shock, the group left promptly from the scene before the police arrived. Following the incident, I followed up with a visit to the A&E and I was told that I had suffered a few fractures in my face and might need to undergo reconstructive surgery to fix some of the bones."
In a statement to Buzzfeed News, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they are treating the attack as "a racially aggravated assault." They are working to identify the suspects from CCTV footage, though no arrests have been made yet.
Mok says that he was reluctant to take to social media following the attack but wanted to encourage others to stand up to racism.
"For those of you who know me, I hate being in the spotlight and I never liked writing posts on Facebook or any social media platform— I only see it as a platform to share memes and hopefully, bring some joy to my friends on social media. However, I felt that this incident highlighted an important issue that needed to be brought into the spotlight. I’ve studied in London for the past 2 years and every year, I am subjected to racist remarks (whether innocent or made with malice). To those people who told me that London isn’t racist, think again."
"Racism is not stupidity — racism is hate. Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred— and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse. From refusing service to a Chinese-looking person to racially-motivated hate crimes, every single one of these acts are based on racism."
"People dismiss racism with statements such as ‘it’s not all of us — only a minority are racists and this does not reflect on a city/country’. While factually true, not only it does not change the fact that this is an ugly problem that has plagued humanity for a very long time, but also it belittles this problem we have. 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."
The student went on to explain why he didn't fight back, and address his attackers directly.
"People may ask me why did I not fight back? Or some might even say I shouldn’t even have turned when I heard the racist remark — but do any of these answer the question: why should anyone, simply because of the colour of their skin, be subjected to abuse, in any form, verbal or physical? Why should I keep quiet when someone makes a racist remark towards me?"
"To the group of guys who saw fit to attack me because of my skin colour: here’s something for you— I stood up to you because I wasn’t afraid, I’ve faced far more intimidating characters in my life. And if you think ganging up on someone who is sizeably smaller than you makes you a big man — it doesn’t. It only makes every single one of you a coward who doesn’t have the balls to take someone on 1 on 1. Grow a pair."
Mok's post has gone viral, attracting thousands of positive comments from people pledging to stand up against hatred.
"Thank you for sharing this dreadful story," one user wrote. It's horrendous that we live in a world where people behave like this."