Racist attack linked to virus

• Fang Fang and a colleague who witnessed the attack, and the heartening message from a trader who came to her aid. Photo by Steve Grant.

A FEMALE hostel worker was spat on and racially abused in Fremantle’s High Street on Tuesday in a “disgusting” attack linked to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Traders rushed from their stores around 3.30pm after hearing the distraught screams of Sundancer Backpackers’ receptionist Fang Fang, who’d chased her attacker into the street, his saliva still dripping from her face.

Ms Fang told the Herald the man had been a guest at the hostel, but after receiving advice from head office that the business would be closing and possibly repurposed to house workers from an overseas company, she’d asked him to leave and offered a full refund.

She was also concerned he and another guest were using drugs and binge drinking in his room, as they’d stumbled up and down the stairs several times during the night to vomit in the downstairs toilet.

“He was like a ghost for the first night,” Ms Fang said.

She let him stay a second night to get some sleep and find alternative accommodation, but his companion had to be escorted out by police after racially abusing other guests.

Ms Fang said as she closed up that night and went to her own room, she was mortified to discover on CCTV that the ejected man had sneaked back into the hostel and the pair appeared to be on another bender.

They spent the night vomiting and banging doors, and in terror she tried to contact a friend but it was late by then and she didn’t get a response.

The next morning she insisted the man leave, and after deducting $10 for a key he lost during the night (half the usual fee) and $30 for a kitchen knife he snapped trying to break back into his room, he became abusive.

“He said ‘this thing you Asian people bring to the country and you need to go back to your country’,” Ms Fang said.

“I felt like I had been so nice to him, explaining several times about why we were having to close because of the Coronavirus.”

He left but came back a couple of times, and when Ms Fang refused to let him log onto the hostel’s wifi, he walked past a couch where she was sitting with two other staff members and spat on her, before hotfooting it.

Bodkins Bootery manager Nick Tsalikis heard the commotion a few doors down and came out to console Ms Fang, who he described as “hysterical”.

“It was very nauseating; I felt very sick afterwards,” he said about the spitting.

“I felt very sorry for her, it was such an awful thing to happen to you.”

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt “strongly condemned” the attack.

“This kind of attack is disgusting,” Dr Pettitt said.

“We are all in this crisis together and we need to be looking out for each other, not behaving like this.”

Despite her trauma, Ms Fang said she’d been heartened by some of the subsequent responses.

The first came as her attacker ran up the street. An onlooker, who’d cottoned on to what had happened from her screams, gave the man a fair hip and shoulder and sent him sprawling to the pavement. Although he was up quickly and disappeared down a side street, Ms Fang says it made her feel better to think he might have skinned a knee or an elbow.

Even better was to come later.

While she was trying to lodge a complaint with police, one of the traders who’d come to her aid slipped her a small, gift-wrapped package. It’s simple message touched her heart: “That is NOT who Australians are. I am so sorry. xx”

“It was so beautiful,” Ms Fang said.

Later another woman came past as she was locking up and reiterated that message.

Ms Fang was unhappy with the police response to the assault, saying the officer kept asking her whether she was prepared to appear in a court. Despite repeated assurances she would, no incident number was issued. Ms Fang says there have been other incidences where backpackers have told her they felt their complaints were just brushed off and she fears police don’t take them seriously because of their intransigence.

Police told the Herald there must have been some “wires crossed” during Ms Fang’s interview and asked for her contact details so they could follow up on her complaint.

by STEVE GRANT

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