A group of teenage boys shoved an Asian woman into Ireland’s Royal Canal last week in what authorities are now treating as a possible hate crime.
The incident, which was caught on camera, took place while Xuedan “Shirley” Xiong was walking near Ashtown in Dublin around 7 p.m. on Friday.
Xiong, who lives in Castleknock, claimed that the group of boys rushed at her on bikes as if they would run her into the canal.
“I screamed and they laughed and then imitated my scream. They left me terrified,” Xiong told The Irish Times.
Shortly after, a second group of boys passed by.
“One of them looked me straight in the eyes and said ‘coronavirus,'” Xiong added. “I didn’t say anything, I was stunned and they winked at each other.”
A third group, which included some who had come across her earlier, then passed by and yelled words such as “Chinese noodles” and “fried noodles.”
It was at that point when Xiong chased the boys. She managed to catch up with their group, which now included some older teens.
Xiong reportedly told the group that what they said was racial discrimination. She recalled being targeted despite the fact that there were other women walking by themselves along the canal at the time.
A video posted on two now-deleted TikTok accounts on Friday shows Xiong telling the group “not to racially discriminate, that’s criminal.” She was then pushed into the canal.
Three passersby reportedly helped Xiong get out of the water. Fortunately, she did not suffer any injuries.
Xiong reported the incident to Irish police, also known as An Garda Síochána, who has since launched an investigation into the “racially-motivated incident.” Two of the boys have already been identified, but they are unlikely to face charges due to their age.
My friend was called “corona virus” and “China noodle” before pushed into water yesterday evening. pic.twitter.com/LNcGmNqAgQ
— Tian Yu Lloyd (@TYL_ie) August 15, 2020
Xiong, who has lived in Ireland for 14 years, faced instances of racial abuse in the past. However, this is the first time she was physically assaulted.
“I was so angry and I don’t know looking back if I was brave or stupid as there was 15 of them and they were bigger and stronger than me,” Xiong told RTÉ.
Several politicians and celebrities have since condemned the incident.
“My heart goes out to the assaulted woman Shirley Xuedan Xiong,” Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu wrote on Twitter. “Make no mistake this was an assault. I’ll be contacting Garda Commissioner this week on the Community Garda Program. This is far from the first assault case on the canal stretches. Let’s work to making it the last.”
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris described the incident as “appalling and deeply upsetting.”
“No place for this in Irish society. We must call out racism any time it rears its ugly, repulsive head,” Harris wrote on Twitter. “No child is born a racist — we need to face up to that reality too. We all have a role to play.”
My heart goes out to the assaulted woman Shirley Xuedan Xiong. Make no mistake this was an assault.
I’ll be contacting Garda Commissioner this week on the Community Garda Program. This is far from the first assault case on the canal stretches. Let’s work to making it the last. https://t.co/XWehNaN40S
— Hazel Chu (@hazechu) August 15, 2020
Meanwhile, singer Brian Kennedy called the boys “subhumans.”
“You don’t get to be Irish and racist,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “You cowardly subhumans. Find them. Expose them. Punish them. EDUCATE THEM! This is Not My Ireland.”
Irish police said that it takes hate crimes seriously. Anyone with information is urged to contact Finglas Garda Station at 01 6667500, the Garda Confidential line (1800 666111) or any Garda Station.
“An Garda Síochána takes hate crime seriously,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Each and every hate crime reported to us is professionally investigated and victims supported during the criminal justice process.”
Feature Image Screenshots via @joshkennedyisagrinch / TikTok