Chinese and East Asian Communities: Racism during Covid-19

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:50 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Labour, Luton South 4:50 pm, 13th October 2020

I welcome my hon. Friend’s intervention. With the University of Bedfordshire in my constituency of Luton South, we welcome many international students from China and other East Asian countries. They are welcome in our town and we do not want the rise in hate crime towards East Asian and Chinese people to deter them from coming to the UK to study. It is a great opportunity, so I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point.

We are also increasingly, and sadly, seeing hard-right politicians and movements across the world using racist language. That has been mentioned already. It is a disgrace to hear Donald Trump call coronavirus the Chinese virus or the Chinese plague. However, racism towards East Asian, South-East Asian and Chinese people is not restricted to politicians abroad. It is a disgrace that Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the International Development Secretary, shared a racist meme. Racism is never a joke, and sharing that meme shows the judgment of the individuals running our country.

The Chinese state must be held accountable for its failings and human rights abuses, but the far right is being encouraged by media reporting that has provided ammunition to far-right activists seeking to normalise racism. In Germany, Der Spiegel magazine ran a cover image of a person in a protective red suit and gas mask, under the headline “Made in China”. In the UK, The Economist also ran a front page with an image of the earth wrapped in a face mask adorned with a Chinese flag. The Government must tackle hate crime by making social media and media outlets accountable for how they spread hate or fuel division. We need accurate health messaging that does not discriminate against a community.

Finally, building on the point raised by my hon. Friend Catherine West about role models for young people, my final comments are on the importance of anti-racist education. I am a supporter of the UK’s leading anti-racist education charity Show Racism the Red Card and a member of the all-party parliamentary group for showing racism the red card. This Friday is Wear Red Day and I encourage everybody to show their commitment to anti-racism education and to tackling all forms of racism by wearing red on Friday.