COVID 19 incidents against Chinese and East Asian Students in the UK: Safety Security and Communication

Miguel Antonio Lim, Hanwei Li, Jingran Yu, Xueting Ban, Katja Levy, Boya Li, Ammeline Wang

Research output: Book/ReportOther reportpeer-review

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International students make significant contributions to social and cultural diversity in the UK. However, there has been a rise in hate crimes and aggression against East Asian and Southeast Asian communities in the UK (He et al., 2020; Coates, 2020). Discriminatory incidents against these communities in shops and restaurants within local Chinese neighbourhoods across the UK are also widely documented. Recent research suggests university students in many UK cities are more likely to become victims of robbery and other crimes. However, Chinese students are far less likely to report such incidents (Curtis, 2003). After the COVID 19 outbreak, racial discrimination became one of the main concerns of Chinese and East Asian students as they decide whether to study in the UK or not (ABCP, 2020). Sadly, some of our initial research also revealed that Chinese international students had reported no incidents through the official channels despite several incidents being told by students during our interviews.

This report addresses five key questions about Chinese students’ experiences of COVID 19-related aggression. These included: (1) What reported experiences of aggression on Chinese students are related to COVID 19? (2) What are the perceptions of Chinese international students in the UK about COVID 19-related aggression, and how do they react to these experiences? (3) How did Chinese international students in the UK receive information about COVID-19? From which channels did they receive their information? (4) How did Chinese students communicate their perceptions and experiences of COVID 19 with their co-nationals? Why? And (5) What can universities and other stakeholders do to understand Chinese students’ security concerns and safeguard them? What can be done regarding reports of COVID 19 related aggression?

We gathered data on the frequency, context, and number of reports on these incidents. Three types of data were collected for the study (1) Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, (2) an online survey and (3) semi-structured interviews. The low number of reports by students in our findings might lead to the conclusion that Asian students and staff do not experience discrimination and that measures against racial aggression are not necessary. However, the results also indicate that students are not given sufficient guidance on how to file a report and seek help. Institutions must provide direction on how students can protect themselves and live in a racially diverse society through accessible reporting channels.

Discrimination is negatively correlated with satisfaction with police and university. Being subject to any form of discrimination is similarly negatively associated with satisfaction with the host university and its anti-AAHC support and the likelihood that students will recommend the institution. Our report’s policy recommendations are to: (1) Raise student and staff awareness of reported and unreported aggression; (2) Increase students’ knowledge about harassment and how to report incidents; (3) Increase the awareness about the needs of various student groups; 4) Increase awareness and understanding of the new face of racism in policy and equality discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • International Students
  • Discrimination
  • COVID-19
  • Chinese

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester China Institute


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