Chinese and East Asian Communities: Racism during Covid-19

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:59 pm on 13th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Home Office) 4:59 pm, 13th October 2020

Again, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Where there is a lack of empathy, there is also a lack of cases that proceed to trial. I am not aware of the actual figures for this issue, but rape is also an issue where the lack of empathy with victims leads to fewer cases going to trial. The victims do not want to take it further because they do not feel they will be treated seriously. There is an excellent rape review by the Victims’ Commissioner for London, which I highly recommend.

I welcome the calls for greater research, a national strategy and a taskforce to scrutinise the data and address the impact on community cohesion—hon. Members also raised the need for more community cohesion. The increase in hate crime has fuelled a steep rise in demand for victim support and has put additional pressure on community groups, but at the same time their income has been slashed and their resources are more stretched than they have ever been. Any solution to hate crime must include the Government funding of those vital services. My hon. Friend Kim Johnson made a point about the need for helplines, and these communities need funding so that the helplines can function in this time of great need.

In July, the Commission for Countering Extremism produced an excellent paper entitled “How hateful extremists are exploiting the pandemic”. It highlighted how different communities were experiencing racism due to the pandemic. It said:

“Government needs to include clear plans to counter extremism in their response to this and future crises. It should also publish a new counter-extremism strategy urgently to ensure that it can strategically respond to the activities of extremists in our country. This strategy should include:…An assessment of how extremism manifests locally, the harm it causes, the scale of support for extremist narratives and how best to pre-empt extremist activity. This should also include a mechanism to provide bespoke support to local authorities most affected…An assessment of who is most susceptible to extremist narratives and a plan of what interventions they will put in place to engage and support those people…A commitment to ensure hateful extremism falls within the remit of the new online harms regulator and that existing laws on inciting hatred should be enforceable online…Plans to build an understanding of how conspiracy theories contribute to extremism. Including how they are utilised by extremists, what the scale, impact and harm is, and how to counter them…Separately, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government must drive forward a COVID-19 cohesion strategy to help bring different communities together to prevent extremist narratives from having significant reach and influence.”

That is from a Government-funded body.

Racism has no part in any civilised society and should be stamped out completely. To do that, we urgently need sustained action. We need to call it out, tackle it online and physically, and show solidarity with our communities that are experiencing racism. We need to ensure that complaints are properly dealt with and that our communities are supported.

In conclusion, I ask the Minister, when will the Government publicly speak out to condemn the anti-Chinese hate speech and the racism against the Chinese and East Asian community? When will she speak to her ministerial colleagues to ensure that more is done to remove online hate speech and algorithms that fuel hateful content? Will she speak to her colleagues to ensure that the police take the reporting of hate speech seriously and work to build trust with the communities affected? Finally, will she support the additional funding for community groups representing those affected by racism and hate crime, and those providing support services?

It is no surprise that the annual hate crime statistics, which were released this morning, show an 8% increase in reported hate crime over the past 12 months. Unless something is done now, there will be long-term damage to community relations, which will take years, if not decades, to repair. I urge the Minister to take action now.