Coronavirus: Hampshire Chinese community 'facing abuse'

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Wenhao Yang
Image caption,
Wenhao Yang said he was verbally abused by a group of five people

Asian students and workers have faced harassment and racial abuse since the outbreak of the coronavirus, a community group has said.

The Southampton Chinese Association in Hampshire said it had compiled a list of incidents including stone throwing and verbal abuse.

Restaurant worker Wenhao Yang said he felt "terrible and angry" after being verbally abused in the street.

Hampshire Constabulary said any such abuse was "unacceptable".

Covid-19 has now claimed 2,004 lives in China, according to the latest Chinese data released on Wednesday.

There have been 74,185 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and about 700 cases in other countries.

Image caption,
The BBC spoke to students at the University of Southampton who said they had suffered abuse

Michael Ng, chairman of the Chinese Association of Southampton, said it had "many reports" of Chinese people facing abuse since the virus broke out.

He said many had stopped wearing surgical masks in public for fear it would make them a target.

He said in one case, a University of Southampton student had stones thrown at him in the city centre and was told to "go back to their country".

"Anyone who looks Chinese could be the target at this moment - many students face harassment when they go out of the campus," he said.

Wenhao Yang said he had been verbally abused by a group of five people while he walked home from work at a Southampton restaurant.

"I feel terrible about this and also angry. The coronavirus happened in China first so its easy for them to reference the virus and Chinese people," he said.

Image caption,
Jia Chee Shu Er said a group of people shouted "Chinese virus" at her

Jia Chee Shu Er, who originally comes from Malaysia, said she was walking to work in Eastleigh and was aware of a "bunch of teenagers, yelling and screaming".

She added: "They came towards me, really close saying 'Chinese virus'... that really makes me worried and concerned about what's happening to the younger generation for this country."

A Hampshire police spokesman said it was aware of a "small number of incidents linked to speculation about coronavirus" in Portsmouth and Southampton.

The spokesman added: "Any crime perpetuated through ignorance, prejudice or hate is unacceptable."

In a joint statement, Southampton City Council and the University of Southampton said they were "saddened" by the incidents.