ME: Dr Yeow Poon, you have been the Chair of the Chinese Community Centre in Birmingham since 1995, founded the England China Business Forum in 2013 and are also a trustee of the Chinese Welfare Trust national charity. Why was it necessary to set up the Covid19 Anti-Racism Action Group (CARG)?
YP: The spread of COVID-19 in the UK has led to an increase in racism and hate crime towards British Chinese, East and Southeast Asians. Incidents ranged from children being taunted in schools to international students being violently attacked. The insistence of some political leaders and media commentators calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus, and attempts to deflect blame to China, has also further inflamed racism. CARG was set up to counter these negative narratives in the media.
ME: As of today, COVID-19 has infected nearly 2m people globally, and the UK is in lockdown with over 10,000 deaths. Why would the British public be concerned with the rise in hate crime against the Chinese and East Asian communities?
YP: Hate crime towards any community should never be tolerated. COVID-19 does not discriminate ethnically. On the frontline in the NHS, in care homes and the community, we are working together to combat and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. These selfless acts by individuals from diverse backgrounds should be applauded. Also, the many examples of mutual help and research collaboration between the UK and China should be encouraged and strengthened.
ME: What does Covid19 Action group hope to achieve and what are its plans for countering racism and hate crime in the UK?
YP: CARG aims to counter COVID-19 stories in the media that encourage racism towards British Chinese, East and South Asian people, including international students. Afterwards, when the pandemic is over, CARG will collaborate with others to tackle broader, systemic racism in the UK. Leaders co-signed the first press release in early April in Chinese community associations, restaurateurs, artists, media and political parties (www.carg.info).
ME: I haven't mentioned that you are also the current Chair of Chinese LibDem (CLD) and the Chair of Policy in West Midlands LibDem. Would you like to add any particular message to our LibDem colleagues and friends?
YP: I first met Paddy Ashdown in 2010 when I had the honour of sitting beside him during a CLD dinner function. Paddy was the Patron of CLD since its formation in 2006. I asked him what liberal democracy is. He replied with three words - liberty, fairness and tolerance. Those three words persuaded me to join the party. Those three words define our common humanity and tell us how we as a party ought to bridge social, cultural and economic divides in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and other socio-economic ills.