British court finds teen's assault on S'porean a racist act

It says witnesses supported victim's account of racist terms being spewed during attack

Mr Jonathan Mok was attacked in London last February, and needed surgery for his facial injuries.
Mr Jonathan Mok was attacked in London last February, and needed surgery for his facial injuries.

A British court has found a 15-year-old boy, part of a group of teens who attacked a Singaporean student in London last February, guilty of a racist act.

The verdict on Monday by the Highbury Corner Youth Court comes after the boy pleaded guilty in August last year to wounding or causing grievous bodily harm without intent.

He had challenged the account of Mr Jonathan Mok, 23, in the London court and said he and his friends never said "I don't want your coronavirus in my country" or made any comments regarding Mr Mok's ethnicity.

However, the court on Monday found him guilty of racially aggravated grievous bodily harm, confirming what the London police had investigated the case as since the incident took place in Oxford Street in London on Feb 24 last year - a racially motivated assault.

Chairman of the Bench Lesley Ward laid out the verdict that the attack had been "unprovoked and racially motivated", after Mr Mok's testimony that the group had spewed racist epithets during the attack was supported by witnesses in the vicinity.

She told the boy: "Given the number of witnesses and your proximity to the incident, we feel it's not plausible that you missed the racist term being used and it's therefore difficult to believe your version of events."

This makes the boy's actions a hate crime, which will affect his sentencing at the same court on Jan 27. He has been released on unconditional bail.

Mr Mok is one of many of Chinese ethnicity who were targeted in Europe and America by those who linked the coronavirus with the Chinese, especially in the early months of the pandemic.

The University College London law student had said on Facebook that he only turned around to face the group after he heard them say "coronavirus" as he walked past them that night.

One of the group of five, which included a girl, then punched him in the face and said "I don't want your coronavirus in my country" before they fled. Mr Mok's injuries had to be treated with facial surgery.

His Facebook post last year on the incident has been shared more than 20,000 times.

He told The Straits Times then: "I thought it was important to share and start the debate.

"Race issues have been prevalent for so long and this shows how dangerous they can be... Even when they start off verbally, they can escalate to physical violence."

He had written in his post: "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.

"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."

The London police have said earlier that another boy, a 16-year-old, who was arrested on March 4 in connection with the case, has been released with no further action taken against him.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2021, with the headline British court finds teen's assault on S'porean a racist act. Subscribe