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Are ‘hate crimes’ against Asian Americans on the rise?

An elderly Thai immigrant dies after being shoved to the ground. A Filipino-American is slashed in the face with a box cutter. A Chinese woman is slapped and then set on fire. These are just examples of recent violent attacks on Asian Americans, part of a surge in abuse since the start of the pandemic a year ago. From being spat on and verbally harassed to incidents of physical assault, there have been thousands of reported cases in recent months. Advocates and activists say these are hate crimes, and often linked to rhetoric that blames Asian people for the spread of Covid-19.

In recent weeks, celebrities and influencers have spoken out after several disturbing incidents went viral on social media. Here are some of the recently reported attacks:

An 84-year-old Thai immigrant in San Francisco, California, died last month after being violently shoved to the ground during his morning walk.
In Oakland, California, a 91-year-old senior was shoved to the pavement from behind.
An 89-year-old Chinese woman was slapped and set on fire by two people in Brooklyn, New York.
A stranger on the New York subway slashed a 61-year-old Filipino American passenger’s face with a box cutter.
Asian American restaurant employees in New York City told the New York Times they now always go home early for fear of violence and harassment.
An Asian American butcher shop owner in Sacramento, California found a dead cat – likely intended for her – left in the store’s parking lot; police are investigating it as a hate crime.
An Asian American family celebrating a birthday at a restaurant in Carmel, California, was berated with racist slurs by a Trump-supporting tech executive.
Several Asian Americans home owners say they’ve been abused with racial slurs and had rocks thrown at their houses.
What’s the reaction? Advocates for Asian Americans say the violence can be linked to rising anti-Asian sentiment in the US. Some have directly blamed the anti-China rhetoric of former President Donald Trump, who often made mention of the pandemic as the “China virus” or the “kung flu”. During his first week in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive action essentially banning the use of such language within the federal government. But, with Democrats now in control of both chambers of Congress, lawmakers and activists are calling for more attention and resources devoted to the issue. California congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus, called the recent incidents “a crisis point” for the community. She and other lawmakers are pushing for the US Department of Justice to expand efforts to report, track and prosecute hate crimes. At the state level, California lawmakers allocated $1.4m (£1m) in state funds to expand data collection, advocacy initiatives and resources for victims. On the ground, there are more local efforts to combat the hate too. In Orange County, neighbours stepped in to help out an Asian American family after a group of teenagers repeatedly targeted them for months with little police intervention. Neighbours now stand guard outside the family’s home each night, the Washington Post reported.

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