Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Brutal assaults scaring Auckland's Asian students

Victims of serious assaults on Asian students in Auckland.
Victims of serious assaults on Asian students in Auckland.

A spate of violent attacks on Asian students in Auckland has raised concerns that offenders see the victims as easy targets.

Six young people were left bloodied, battered and terrified after the assaults.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has requested a briefing, and concerns have also been raised with Police Minister Judith Collins.

The attacks - all in public places and mainly carried out during daylight hours - came as Thai authorities warned citizens of the dangers of such incidents in New Zealand.

Auckland City Police's Inspector Joe Tipene, who oversees Maori, Pacific and ethnic services, said the attacks were worrying and arrests were made in two of the cases.

No further arrests have been made today in relation to the attacks but police said this evening they were following very positive lines of enquiry in both the Oakley Creek incident and the Albert Park incidents.

"We have executed search warrants today in relation to the Oakley Creek incident and enquiries are continuing," a police spokeswoman said.

There was no more CCTV footage of the Albert park incident.

The spokeswoman confirmed police were looking for six offenders, four women and two men, their ages described as being between 14 and 20.

Police were not aware of any further incidents of this nature recently.

Lots of positive feedback and support of the students had been sent via Facebook and people were continuing to share the images posted yesterday, the spokeswoman said.

Police were offering ongoing support to students who may be concerned about their safety.

"We are continuing to liaise with the student community via existing channels and have offered to host another forum if required."

In the first attack, last Tuesday, two female Chinese University of Auckland students were attacked and robbed by a group of up to six teen boys and girls as they walked through Albert Park about 8.30pm.

They were punched and kicked, and the group pulled their hair before wrestling them to the ground and stealing one handbag and a phone.

One of the women fainted and was left with a deep cut below her eye. Both were bruised and very shaken. Phone, bank and bus records showed their stolen items had been used throughout Auckland.

Just before midnight on Wednesday, two Japanese women were attacked in Queen St, near Myers Park. They were allegedly dragged on to the road by their attackers who again punched them to the ground before kicking them and stealing their possessions.

Four young teens, aged 14 and 15 years old, were arrested following the attack and are due to appear in Youth Court this week.

A man who came to the victims' aid, Theo Gills, said one of the women had a head injury and was badly shaken.

Hours later, at 9.30am on Thursday, a male Chinese student walking to Unitec in Mt Albert was set upon by two men who beat him so severely photos show his face and upper body smeared in blood.

Footage of the scene of Mt Albert assault. The victim's face and body were smeared in blood.
Footage of the scene of Mt Albert assault. The victim's face and body were smeared in blood.

They kicked him and stomped on his head, breaking his glasses, and stole his laptop, before escaping in a car. On Monday night, an international student walking along Khyber Pass Rd near the corner of Broadway, Newmarket, was pushed to the ground by four youths aged between 12 and 14 years old who were later arrested.

Whau Local Board deputy chairwoman Susan Zhu said the incidents have caused widespread fear among the Chinese community, who felt vulnerable and helpless in the wake of the attacks.

CCTV image shows the alleged offenders involved in a brutal attack near Unitec in Mt Albert.
CCTV image shows the alleged offenders involved in a brutal attack near Unitec in Mt Albert.

"Some students have raised the issue with me that they feel very scared to go out and lots of parents in New Zealand and outside New Zealand are worried."

While there was an element of "wrong place, wrong time" Mrs Zhu questioned whether enough was being done to keep visitors safe.

"People have been talking about the city's stakeholders, for example, the police, whose first priority is to keep the community safe and in these three cases they have failed to keep our young students - who are our guests and who contribute hugely to our city - safe."

She was organising a public meeting with Auckland Council, police and other community groups, she said.

CCTV footage shows the attackers leaving in the victim's car.
CCTV footage shows the attackers leaving in the victim's car.

Chinese migrant Redd Qian was so disturbed by images of the attacks, that have been widely circulated on popular app WeChat, he organised the Run a Safer Community event.

"I wanted to show that we, the New Zealand Asian community, are wanting to help build a safer community."

Mr Qian, 30, has lived in New Zealand for 14 years and sympathised with not being familiar with the customs and laws of a new country.

"I know what it is like to feel helpless and vulnerable and that could have been my friends or even me [that were attacked]."

The run will leave Countdown Mt Eden at 8pm on Friday and finish at Albert Park and anyone is welcome, he said.

Mr Tipene expressed concerns about the number of recent aggravated robberies involving international students in the city.

"Police take [any] aggravated robbery or assault very seriously.

Brutal: A woman was left with a deep cut after she was set upon by a group of six teens.
Brutal: A woman was left with a deep cut after she was set upon by a group of six teens.

"There are opportunist offenders who will take advantage of people who sometimes inadvertently put themselves in vulnerable positions."

Mr Brown also reassured visitors that Auckland was a safe city, but he has requested a briefing on the attacks.

Ms Collins reiterated the police's message, and said a response was being prepared to a letter calling for more action on crimes against migrants.

A Unitec spokeswoman said the attacks were very worrying and had prompted additional security measures and education for all students.

- NZ Herald

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