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Plea to the UK Media and Public

March 27, 2020 6:00 PM
By Dr Yeow Poon, spokesperson for Covid19 Anti Racism Group

Dr Yeow PoonThere has been a sharp increase of racist hate crime throughout the country, ranging from verbal incidents, intimidation and even physical attacks, towards the British Chinese community and other East Asian communities, including international students from China and other countries in South East Asia. Although there are examples of those who stood up against the perpretrators and defended people who were being abused, it is distressing to see the upsurge of hate crime arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

We believe the situation has been inflamed by the frequent and inconsiderate use of images of Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian people in masks over the last few months when depicting Covid-19 in the press, television and other media. Whilst it may be understandable that only East Asian images were available in December and January, it has no longer been the case since February, as the pandemic spreads globally. We note that in recent days images now generally show sufferers and people from affected countries, however, there are still instances of articles using images of East Asian people, when the story is not directly about incidences of Covid-19 in China.

We ask the media to take more care when using words and choosing images so as not to racialise the disease . Covid-19 does not discriminate on ethnicity. The risk of transmission affects all of us equally, hence we should be supporting and helping each other to contain and defeat the virus.

At the height of the Covid-19 crisis in China, the UK together with most Western countries helped by providing medical equipment to China. Now, China is returning the support received by sending masks and other medical equipment back, as well as to other countries that need them. At the non-governmental level, people are helping too.

For examples in the UK, University Hospitals Birmingham, tweeted on 25th March that their colleagues at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou 'have kindly donated a substantial number of clinical masks and gowns'. Also, in Birmingham, a fund-raising activity in January, organised by the Chinese community raised £15,000 to buy personal protection equipment for China. However, by the time the logistics were sorted, they were no longer needed, and have now been donated to Birmingham City Council for protecting frontline workers. In Leeds, the Chinese community has started a Go Fund Me to purchase personal protection equipment from China to donate to GP practices in Yorkshire.

We encourage the media to continue emphasising compassion, understanding and mutual support across all communities rather than feeding division, bigotry and racist behaviour.

Thank you.