VANCOUVER -- The lion statues in Vancouver's Chinatown neighbourhood have become the latest targets of racist graffiti and vandalism in the city.

The two statues, located on either side of the Millennium Gate on Pender Street, were marked with red lettering this week that read "CHINA" and "COVID-19."

The city released a statement Wednesday condemning the graffiti and the overall increase in anti-Asian discrimination that's been recorded since the start of the pandemic.

"The city was extremely disappointed and saddened to learn of yet another incidence of racism in Vancouver," it read.

A crew from GoodBye Graffiti was sent out to clean the statues on Wednesday morning, and it was covered up by the afternoon.

Officials noted the company offers free removal of hateful or racist graffiti on private property, and thanked staff for their service.

Vancouver has also been providing funding to the Chinatown Business Improvement Association to pay for extra security services in the area since April. The funding is expected to last through June.

B.C. Premier John Horgan also addressed the reported rise in racism during the COVID-19 crisis during a news conference on Wednesday, calling it unacceptable to see people taking out "their concerns, their frustrations on people of colour, people of a different religious perspective, people of a different sexual orientation."

"Hate has no place in British Columbia," he added. "We are a strong and vibrant economy, and a strong and vibrant community because of the diversity that is what makes up this great province."

Last weekend, an Indigenous woman was punched repeatedly by a man making racist comments in a Vancouver park, and in March, an elderly man was viciously attacked in a convenience store on the city's east side.