A 19-year-old woman had ventured into the city centre for the first time in a year due to Covid fears and lockdown rules when she was assaulted outside Boots on Fargate.
A woman demanded to know if she was Chinese, hit her in the face and pulled her to the ground by her hair, it is claimed.
In a video of the incident, a glass bottle can be heard being smashed as passers-by intervened.
Jerry Cheung, leader of the Chinese community in Sheffield, has described the attack as ‘unacceptable in a civilised society’ and said there have been previous incidents involving Asian victims.
“We need the people who run the city to say it won’t be tolerated,” he said.
South Yorkshire Police has confirmed the incident on Sunday, April 25 is being treated as a ‘racially aggravated assault’.
The force said: “It is reported that the victim, a 19-year-old woman, was exiting a shop when a woman approached her and made racially aggravated threats towards her. The woman then assaulted the victim by punching her and pulling her hair.
“A member of the public, a 26-year-old woman, attempted to intervene and the offender is reported to have thrown a glass bottle which smashed, causing the 26-year-old and 19-year-old to suffer minor injuries.
“A second member of the public, a 25-year-old man, attempted to intervene and he is also reported to have been assaulted.
“A 20-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm. She has been released under investigation while enquiries continue.”
Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman said: “Officers are treating this incident as a hate crime and we are taking it incredibly seriously. We have arrested a 20-year-old woman in connection to the assault and our enquiries are ongoing as we speak to witnesses and conduct CCTV trawls.
“This was a violent attack on an innocent woman who was just trying to go about her day in peace. She, and the brave members of the public who attempted to help her, are understandably incredibly upset and shaken about what happened.
“Everyone has the right to feel safe in our communities and no one should feel targeted simply because of their ethnicity. It is heartbreaking that anyone should have to suffer because of someone else’s misguided prejudice.
“Please be assured that we work tirelessly to investigate hate crimes and bring those responsible to justice. We routinely work with our partners including local councils and charities to support victims and educate those at risk of offending.
“If you have experienced or witnessed a hate crime or incident, please know that we are here to listen and support you.
“Sadly, people across the country face very real hostility because of the colour of their skin, their religion, their nationality. If you play a role in perpetuating this kind of violence - we will bring you to justice.
“We are committed to making Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire area a safe place to live, work and study. We all have a part to play in this, let’s all do what we can to make hate a thing of the past.”