Chinese student attacked in Sheffield over coronavirus

A community leader has pleaded for greater understanding between different groups after a Chinese student was attacked in Sheffield for wearing a mask to protect herself and others from the deadly coronavirus.
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The postgraduate student was walking alone up West Street towards Sheffield University at around 1pm yesterday when she was verbally abused and nudged by three people.

At the time, she was wearing a protective face mask following instructions from the media in China and Hong Kong, who have advised citizens to wear them to protect themselves and others.

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Sarah Ng, from Sheffield Chinese Community Centre, said: “The student was listening to the media to protect the public and themselves.

Sarah Ng & Tak LiuSarah Ng & Tak Liu
Sarah Ng & Tak Liu

“There’s so much going on in the [UK] media about the virus and what was picked up in Sheffield from what’s been online and in the papers is creating quite a panic in the local population. It’s understandable as they don’t have the full picture of what’s happening worldwide.

“Yesterday there was an incident on West Street when a student was walking down the street wearing a mask and was assaulted.”

She added: “They were asking why she was wearing a mask and if she has a problem. She didn’t say anything because it was quite scary for her.

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“It was a one-off incident but I’m thinking we need to put out a balanced message of understanding about why Chinese students are wearing masks.”

“The student is fine. She didn’t want to press charges. She understands now it was because the public doesn’t understand the situation.”

Sarah estimates there are around 10,000 Chinese nationals living in Sheffield with many having lived in the city since the 1940s. The Chinese Community Centre, which was established by Sarah in 1994, works with the police, Sheffield City Council and other organisations to build community cohesion.

She said: “It’s a huge population and Sheffield is their home. They are equally as concerned about the issues in China as everyone else.

“Over the last few years the city has been safe. Sheffield, as a city, has a very good understanding about minority groups and local populations living in harmony.”