A CARG Statement
CARG (Covid-19 Anti-Racism Group) was formed in April 2020 in response to a sharp rise in racism and hate crime against Chinese and other East and Southeast people due to the Covid-19 pandemic. CARG is also facing the issues of rising Sinophobia because of the increasing undertones of yellow peril geo-political narratives from politicians and the media.
CARG upholds the values of equality, diversity and inclusivity set out by the Charity Commission. Our long term goal is to eradicate racism in the UK through institutional changes in education, the criminal justice system and the media. Although CARG’s focus is the Chinese, East and Southeast Asian communities, we also stand in solidarity with all other ethnic communities in the UK that suffer from racism and hate crime.
Over the last 12 months, as significant numbers of Hong Kong BNOs migrate into the UK, the political conflicts between those who are labelled as pro-democracy or pro-China, are appearing in the UK. Amongst the Hong Kongers, there are some who believe their safety is at risk because they think that the Chinese Government has infiltrated some UK institutions and Chinese community organisations. Allegations have been made that Chinese community organisations cannot be trusted to support Hong Kong BNOs. Individuals and Chinese community organisations have been indiscriminately and unfairly labelled as “yellow” or “blue”.
These fears have led to tensions within the British Chinese community. As examples, an individual was fallaciously targeted, which led to serious harm to mental health. In another instance, a Chinese community organisation, wrongly stigmatised as “blue”, was forced to withdraw from a consortium bidding to set up a hate crime reporting centre, even though it is a registered charity with Board members of Chinese heritage from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Malaysia and the UK, with no political alignment or interest, and fully committed to provide services indiscriminately, was cancelled out and disenfranchised. Though these are only two examples, this unjustified and destructive labelling is leading to serious feelings of insecurity and suspicion amongst our Chinese, East and Southeast Asian community.
Democracy in the UK is underpinned by rule of law. Organisations that are registered with the Charity Commission, are apolitical and not allowed to participate in political matters that lie outside their charitable purpose. If a charitable Chinese community organisation is perceived to be biased politically, it should be reported to the Charity Commission for investigation. It is not for individuals or organisations to stigmatise others in public forums and to act as judge and jury. Also, if we are worried for our safety and have concerns about illegal activities, we should bring the matter to the Police.
The British Chinese, East and Southeast Asian community is not homogenous. It has a diverse range of beliefs, values and ways of life. Regarding China and Hong Kong, some are pro-Hong Kong, some pro-China and others neutral. Although there are elements on both sides that are fiercely opposed to each other, it is CARG’s hope that the new migrants from Hong Kong and the existing Chinese communities in the UK can overcome their suspicions and work with each other to deal with racism. Sinophobia and hate crime affects us all as the racists on the street cannot differentiate where we originated; be that Hong Kong, Mainland China, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia or any other part of East and Southeast Asia.
Freedom of speech, in a pluralistic democracy like the UK, means we should all be able to express our beliefs, political and otherwise, without fear of persecution, ridicule or being labelled as blue or yellow. Disagreements and debates are means to better mutual understanding. A democratic society becomes dysfunctional when it is so polarised that people who disagree with each arouse suspicion and mistrust. Do we really want to cancel each other out?
We have to learn to agree to disagree, to be fair and tolerant towards each other and to co-exist peacefully. We can all work together to build a diverse and democratic society where people can go about their lives without fear or discrimination because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and political beliefs.