Coronavirus: Police investigate racism allegations in Portsmouth and Southampton

Police have launched an investigation following reports of racist incidents linked to the coronavirus in Portsmouth – including school bullying and a man being ordered off a bus for wearing a face mask.

Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 11:14 am

There have been five reported incidents across Portsmouth and Southampton, in which members of the Asian community including university students and school pupils are said to have been verbally abused with racial slurs in the space of four days.

A University of Southampton student reportedly had a stone thrown at him in the centre of the Hampshire city and was told by a man and a woman: ‘Go back to your… country.’

Another student wearing a face mask was called a 'virus' while she walked home and a staff member at a Chinese restaurant in Southampton was harassed by a man who cited the coronavirus.

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A poster created by Southampton University CSSA (Chinese Students and Scholars Association).

In Portsmouth, a man was allegedly asked to get off a bus by its driver because he was wearing a face mask.

The University of Southampton's Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSASoton) has urged people not to insult people by creating a anti-abuse poster.

The poster reads: ‘I am not a virus, I am a human.’

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It has been distributed in Chinese restaurants across Southampton and may also be used across the University of Southampton campus.

Dr Michael Ng, chair of the association and an Associate Professor at the university, said: ‘There are racist people who are using the coronavirus as an excuse to racially abuse the Asian community.

‘Students at the university are affected - they are afraid of putting on their masks in case they face abuse. There have been no incidents on campus, but there are many which have happened in the city centre.

"There are many incidents which have not been reported to the police.’

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said: ‘There have been a small number of incidents of racial abuse. Any crimes perpetuated by hate and prejudice are completely unacceptable. We are working with Chinese community leaders.’

Dr Ng also said pupils from Hong Kong and Macau studying at a private school in Portsmouth were verbally abused by fellow pupils however the matter was dealt with internally.