Speech given by Dr Yeow Poon during the Act of Hope and Remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral during National Hate Crime Awareness Week.
Racism against people of Chinese, East and Southeast Asian heritage goes back to at least the 19th Century during the Opium Wars between the UK and China. The phrase Yellow Peril became popular and it was particularly bad in the period between the First and Second World War, as Chinese people were often portrayed in novels, plays and the press, as sinister, malevolent and wanting to dominate the world.
From the 1960s onwards until recently, there were little overt racism against Chinese people in the UK mainstream media but the tone was always there. Chinese people working in catering, in restaurants and in takeaways bore the brunt of what is often seen as jokes, like using the C-word or making slanty eyes. Most Chinese children in schools have also experienced harassment and/or bullying.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the impact was immediate in Chinatowns across the country as businesses reported reduced numbers of customers. As the pandemic spread in the UK, the mainstream press was mostly using images of Chinese people in masks in Covid-19 news reports, even when the articles had nothing to do with China or any other East Asian countries. There was also misinformation around wet markets and Chinese eating habits. As racism and hate crime against Chinese looking people began to spike, there were physical attacks and defacements of Chinese takeaways.
CBBC Newsround interviewed some Chinese children in February 2020 about their experience of racism during the coronavirus pandemic. The children explained that they had been bullied and called names and many are scared.
"Since this coronavirus started, I've definitely had more criticism and more racist comments."
"When I was out running with my mum, there was these teenagers in a car swearing at us, because we are Chinese."
CARG (Covid-19 Anti-Racism Group) was established in April 2020 by a group of concerned UK citizens who felt strongly that the media was either inadvertently or knowingly stoking racism and hate crime against Chinese looking people by the indiscriminate use of images.
In 2022, we renamed CARG as Campaign Against Racism Group to tackle the broader increase in Sinophobia due to geopolitical tensions between West and China. CARG is however apolitical and will not take sides. Our concern is how Sinophobia might impact on hate crime against Chinese people. For example:
Just 2 weeks ago, the Glasgow Times reported anti-Chinese slogans painted around the grounds of Glasgow University with the words “Kill the Chinese”.
More specifically, CARG will be focusing on institutional racism embedded in the UK justice system and in the school curriculum. CARG wants to develop long term policy and institutional change through engagement and collaboration with others, not just within the British Chinese, East and Southeast Asian communities, as institutional and systemic racism affects all of us.
Hence, CARG fully supports the work of #NationalHCAW and is honoured to be part of the 2022 National Hate Crime Awareness Week. We are thankful that the National Candle of Hope and Remembrance is lit in memory of victims of Race Hate Crime experienced by the Chinese, East and Southeast Asian communities.
CARG will work closely with #NationalHCAW in the next 12 months to further develop the theme “We Stand Together Against Racism”.
In particular, we will focus on education, the curriculum and how schools can be safe places for all children, whatever their backgrounds, to learn and grow, as well as to learn to accept and respect each other diverse backgrounds. After all, children are our future.