Anti-racism campaign launched after spike in racial attacks towards Asian community

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is launching a campaign called "racism is no joke" in response to increasing attacks on the Asian community. 

There's been a 30 percent spike in racially motivated attacks against ethnic minorities in New Zealand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the commission.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says Kiwis don't believe racism is widespread here.

"We are kidding ourselves. Until those people that say that they aren't racist, they need to put themselves into the shoes of those people who are being abused," Foon told Newshub.

Comedian James Roque appears in HRC's campaign, and he's asking people to stop spreading so-called 'jokes' about the Asian community and COVID-19.

"We're targeting what we like to call the soft middle, which is people who we genuinely believe are good people but maybe think a bit of casual racism isn't actually hurting anyone - when in reality it's hurting a lot of people."

Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha says the pandemic has fuelled racial hate crimes.

"We received a significant number of reports that came through to us. At least 92 percent of those reports were motivated by an attack on a person's race, their ethnicity," he says.

While police now record whether assaults have a racial element, the Government has delayed proposed hate speech laws until after the election. Haumaha says that won't deter police from recording those offences as they occur.

Netsafe also says its seen a 238 percent increase in online hate speech in 2020 compared to the last six months of 2019.

There are also cases of abuse that although they aren't considered criminal still have an impact on victims' mental health, and there's concern they're not seeking the help they need.

Research by counsellors Asian Family Services found only 28 percent of Asians would seek help from health professionals in that instance, whereas 69 percent of the wider national population 69 percent said they'd get help.