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'They stuck with me': Woman pushed into Royal Canal says she was targeted because she is Chinese

Shelly Xiong now worries that her son will be targeted in school.

A still from the video
A still from the video
Image: Twitter

Updated Aug 16th 2020, 2:49 PM

A CHINESE WOMAN who was filmed being pushed into a canal in Dublin by a group of young people has said she worries that her son will be targeted in school.

A garda investigation into a “racially motivated incident” is underway after footage of Shelly Xiong being shoved into the Royal Canal in Dublin 15 went viral on social media yesterday.

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week programme, Shelly described how the incident stemmed from her attempt to confront a group of youths because they racially abused her.

After encountering one group of youths while walking along the canal, she explained that one person on a bike cycled towards her and nearly pushed her into the canal.

“So I screamed, and they laughed and imitated my scream,” she said.

“I proceeded with my walking, and after a few minutes I met the second group of about three young people.

“One of them looked into my eyes and said to me ‘coronavirus’. The third group started to insult me and said to me ‘Chinese noodles’ and ‘fried noodles’.”

Shelly claims she was specifically targeted because she was Chinese, saying that the youths didn’t target anyone else who was walking along the canal.

“There were lots of people walking alone, but they just stuck with me,” she said.

“So I said to them ‘that’s racial discrimination… stop it’. They kind of cycled away, and I turned back after I asked them to stop… They targeted me, and there is a racial element there.”

She further explained that after encountering a second group, she walked about 300 metres further along the canal and met a third group, which was when she was pushed into the water.

“My mind went blank,” she said. “I did not think of anything and I did not see who pushed me.”

Garda appeal 

After she got out of the canal, Shelly said that a number of people came to help her and that she reported the incident to gardaí. She waited with three people for gardaí to arrive, but they never showed up.

She later went to the garda station on Friday night to make a statement.

As a result of the incident, Shelly says she now feels afraid to go out walking or jogging.

“Even in my neighbourhood, I feel nervous because I usually meet those groups of teenagers. I try to avoid them,” she said.

She also worries about her young son, particularly about the possibility that he may be similarly abused – or that he could even abuse others when he gets older.

“When my son turns to be a teenager, I don’t have any control over him,” she said.

“Will he be one of them? The other thing is that because my son actually goes to a local school in the area, I’m also worried about his safety.”

Shelly paid tribute to those who helped her after she had been pushed into the canal, saying they likely prevented her from being shoved into the water again.

“I was so angry. I look back, thinking I don’t know if I was brave or I was stupid because they were fifteen or more young guys who were much bigger and much stronger than me.

“I’m a small middle-aged Chinese woman. Without those three kind people staying with me, I guess they would have come back and thrown me into the water again.”

Commenting this afternoon, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar – whose constituency covers the Dublin 15 area, hit out at what he called the “upsetting” incident.

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“It shouldn’t take bravery to go for an evening walk,” he said.

“We should all be ashamed this happened to Ms Xiong. We must do everything we can to support victims of hate crime and stamp out racism.”

Gardaí who are investigating the incident, which occurred between Lock 11 and 12 of the Royal Canal at approximately 7.25pm on Friday, have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Garda Press Office said: “Gardaí are appealing for witnesses and are asking that anyone with information in relation to this incident should make contact with investigating gardaí at Finglas Garda Station, in particular anyone who may have mobile phone footage or a voice recording of the incident.”

Anyone with information has been asked to contact Finglas Garda Station on 01 666 7500, the Garda Confidential line on 1800 666111 or any garda station.

In a further statement to TheJournal.ie this evening, TikTok – the social media platform where the video of the incident was posted – described the footage as a violation of its community guidelines.

“Our community guidelines and Terms of Service make clear what is not acceptable on our platform, including any content or behaviour that includes hate speech or that verbally or physically threatens violence,” a spokeswoman said.

“We use a combination of technologies and people to identify, review and, where appropriate, remove any content or accounts that violate these guidelines.”

The video has since been removed from the platform.

With reporting from Órla Ryan.

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