Gardaí are investigating after a woman was reportedly racially abused before being pushed into the Royal Canal while walking near Ashtown in Dublin on Friday evening.
Xuedan (Shelly) Xiong, who lives in Castleknock, says she feels too nervous to go out alone after she was pushed into the canal while confronting a group of teenage boys who shouted racial abuse at her.
Ms Xiong was walking between Castleknock and Ashtown at around 7pm on Friday when she says a group of teenage boys rushed at her on bikes to make it seem like they were going to run her into the canal. “I screamed and they laughed and then imitated my scream. They left me terrified.”
A few moments later a second group of boys passed by. “One of them looked me straight in the eyes and said ‘coronavirus’,” Ms Xiong told The Irish Times. “I didn’t say anything, I was stunned and they winked at each other.”
A third group, which included some of the teenage boys who had previously walked and cycled by, then passed by shouting “Chinese noodles” and “fried noodles” at Ms Xiong. She ran after the boys until she caught up with the group which now included some older teenagers.
“I told them it was racial discrimination to speak like that. I wasn’t frightened anymore, all I felt was anger. There were lots of lone women walking along the canal at that time but they targeted me. I think there’s a reason behind that.”
A video posted on TikTok shows two members of the group pushing Ms Xiong backwards into the water. The video has since been removed from the social media site.
Ms Xiong was not physically hurt and pulled herself back onto the path as the boys ran off.
Three passers by stopped to help while she called gardaí to report the incident. “We could still see the group of young men, they were about 200 metres away. Without those three kind people who stopped I’m pretty sure they would have come back and pushed me again.”
Ms Xiong says she waited about ten minutes for a Garda to arrive from the nearby station but decided to return home because her clothes were soaking.
She later went to Blanchardstown to make a formal report. She says gardaí told her it was unlikely the teenagers involved would be found.
“The Garda asked if I had phone numbers for any witnesses. I had asked the people by the canal to be witnesses for when the Garda arrived but I didn’t think to ask for their numbers. I was too upset by what had happened. His question made me feel like I needed to have a complete dossier prepared before reporting to the gardaí.
“I understand the gardaí are busy because they’re under-resourced but I believe if I’d arrived in with a broken leg they would have treated me differently. I was still hurt. But he made it sound like nothing could be done.”
A Garda spokesman told the Irish Times it was investigating “an alleged racially motivated incident” which occurred on August 14th in Dublin 15.
"An Garda Síochána takes hate crime seriously and each and every hate crime reported to us is professionally investigated and victims supported during the criminal justice process," he said, adding that gardaí were taking actions to "improve internal recording and encourage more reporting by the public".
“The Garda Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019 – 2021 has a significant focus on enhancing the identification, reporting, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes,” he added.
Gardaí would encourage anyone who feels they have been the victim of a hate crime to report the matter directly gardaí and not to third parties or on social media, he said.
Racial abuse is not a new occurrence for Ms Xiong who has lived in Ireland for 14 years and has a 10-year-old son. She says she purposely avoids groups of teenage boys while out walking because of the verbal abuse she has suffered in the past. In this case, however, she decided to confront them.
“The reason I went after them to talk was because I also felt sorry for them. I was trying to speak to them as a mother, trying to explain why they shouldn’t talk to people like that.”
Ms Xiong believes there’s “some element missing in our education” if teenagers are abusing people of different ethnicities in this way. “Every human being is born noble but people go on to behave in stupid ways because of a lack of education. We have to address this and provide help for these kids.”
Ms Xiong says she has received huge support from friends since Friday but is still very shaken by what happened. She usually walks or jogs every day but admits that she is now nervous about leaving the house alone.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the local park now because I’ve seen teenagers there as well. I don’t know how long it will take me to get that courage back.”