British Chinese fight COIVD-19 racism

By Sun Wei in London Published: 2020/6/9 3:31:07

A woman wearing a mask walks across the Millennium Bridge in London, Britain, on March 9, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese living in the UK applauded British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's disapproval of anti-Chinese xenophobia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I deeply disapprove of anti-Chinese xenophobia, attacks on people of Chinese appearance that we've seen in recent months," Johnson said last week during a Downing Street press conference, "We must stamp out such xenophobia."

Wang Zilan, research associate at the University of Cambridge, told the Global Times she was impressed with Johnson's remarks and glad to know that he is a Sinophile. 

"A lot of friends were discussing the word 'Sinophile' that Boris used to described himself," Wang said, adding that Sino obviously means China, and 'phile' comes from the Greek word "to love"- thus, a Sinophile is someone who loves China.

Since COIVD-19, there has been more rumors spread and racism against Chinese and Asians outside of China. 

According to data released by UK police to Sky News, the rate of hate crimes against Chinese from January to March nearly tripled that of the previous two years. At least 267 offenses were recorded against Chinese, Eastern, and Southeastern Asians during the first three months of the year, compared with 375 hate crimes for 2019, and 360 in 2018. The crimes included assault, robbery, harassment, and criminal damage.  

"The actual number of cases might be far more than what was reported," Cllr Xingang Wang JP, Claygate Parish Councilor in Surrey, told the Global Times. Wang said the racist attacks might continue to rise as lockdown policies are lifted while encouraging people to report any incidents they encounter. 

COVID-19 racism on the rise

For some Chinese who have spent their entire lives in Britain, they now feel like outsiders in the UK as racism continues to climb. 

As the Evening Standard reported earlier, according to a study led by Diversity, Assessment and Development specialist Professor Binna Kandola, the Chinese have been coughed at, attacked, and told to "go back home." 

Over half of the 412 people surveyed said they had experienced discrimination during the COVID-19 outbreak. Three in 10 said they had witnessed or experienced discrimination at the workplace, while 37 percent said they had been victims of discrimination outside the office.

The report also noted how Chinese restaurants and food takeout establishment had abusive notices hung on their windows and doors, affecting business even before the lockdown. At the workplace, discrimination was more subtle, but also common.

Chinese students in the UK were shocked by the COVID-19 racist attacks and were afraid to go outside even before the lockdown was ordered in late March.

Ella Xie, a student at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told the Global Times she was hesitant about wearing a mask outdoors because it would make her an easy target for racists, especially when the outbreak had just started. Xie has remained at home since mid-Mach and orders her groceries online.  

Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old, third-year law student at the University College London (UCL), was attacked on Oxford Street in London in February by a group of men who told him, "I don't want your coronavirus in my country."

Mok wrote in a Facebook post, "Racism is not stupidity - racism is hate. Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred - and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they've found yet another excuse."

COVID-10 Anti-Racism Group, founded by British Chinese in cities across the UK, started a petition in April to address the racism and the increase in hate crimes toward British East Asians and international students. 

The petition called for the British media to focus on the roles played by migrants and minority communities in the fight against COVID-19, rather than scapegoating one ethnicity. "We urge the media to emphasize solidarity, courage, and mutual support across all communities, rather than feed hostility, division, and racism," it said.

Zero-tolerance for racism

As the racism could continue after the lockdown measures ease, Cllr Xingang Wang JP recently co-organized a WeChat forum on how to fight racism during the pandemic with The UK Beijing Association, the UK Society of Chinese Lawyers, and the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations. The livestream event on May 23rd attracted more than 8,000 viewers worldwide. 

Cllr Xingang Wang JP, and Xiaojiu Zhu MBE, President of the UK Society of Chinese Lawyers, strongly advised pursuing legal action against racial discrimination.

Zhu pointed out that unlike COVID-19, racism is an "old disease." There are laws against racial discrimination in different countries, and throughout both the Europe Union and United Nations. 

Zhu advised people to report racists incidents and use the legal system to protect themselves. "Only when the statistic is significant, the government and local authorities will take notice and respond with appropriate protective measures," she added.

Wang encouraged all Chinese to get involved in their local communities to help vulnerable and essential workers, because kindness and compassion speak louder than ignorance and hate.

Many Chinese communities and individuals have been donating face masks to the NHS, care homes, and to those in need. 

Wang Zilan, who lives in Cambridge, has been coordinating with friends in China and donating equipment to local communities. She said most of her Chinese friends have been donating or doing something for their local communities in the UK. 

Xue Yisha, Freeman of City of London, has been organizing donations to local care homes since the lockdown in March. "I read the local newspaper and realized that the care homes are short of protective equipment," Xue told the Global Times, adding that she and her friends living in Chinese communities in the UK have organized donations and purchased masks and gloves from China to help because "the care home workers do need them to protect the vulnerable people."

Several alumni associations with Chinese universities in the UK such as Peking University, Wuhan University, Zhejiang University, and Sun Yat-Sen University, organized the "One World, One Fight" campaign to raise funds to procure PPEs to support the staff at the NHS hospitals in London, Oxford, Cambridge and other places. They have donated PPEs valued at more than £500,000 since mid-May.

Li Yijing, a lecturer in Urban Informatics at King's College London and a "One World, One Fight" campaign organizer wrote in her diary, "we hope that this trickle can gain strength to become a force of goodwill that can be passed on our frontline heroes."


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