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“This year is the equivalent of Stephen Lawrence for ESEA in the UK, we need to speak up now” says anti-racism activist
Qing Na

“This year is the equivalent of Stephen Lawrence for ESEA in the UK, we need to speak up now” says anti-racism activist

Feature image: John Cameron/Unsplash.

Community leaders and anti-racism activists are encouraging East and Southeast Asians (ESEA) who are victims of racist or hate crime to report to police, while CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) calls on communities to have faith in the system.

A YouGov poll surveying a total of 1,270 BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethic) adults in the UK between 10-17th June, shows 70% of ESEA respondents have experienced direct racial slurs since the outbreak of Covid-19. Of whom, 58.4% have experienced such occurrences more than three times.

The ESEA third and fourth generations…they’re more integrated and confident about speaking up online about social justice. That’s been really encouraging. -- David K.S. Tse

Hate speech towards China and Chinese people has seen a 900% increase on Twitter and 200% increase in traffic to hate sites and specific posts against Asians, says a report published by L1GHT – a platform measuring online toxicity by analysing texts, images and videos on social media and websites.

“Because of the unprecedent levels of COVID-19 hate currently being expressed towards our communities, the ESEA in the UK need to be assertive and speak up now,” says David K.S. Tse, a British Chinese actor, writer and director who is also one of the Core Team members of CARG (Covid-19 Anti-Racism Group) – a grassroots organisation which campaigns against racism and racially-motivated hate crime in the UK.

He also compared the atmosphere this year to that of the Stephen Lawrence* case for ESEA in the UK, with the frequency and viciousness of unprovoked, racially-motivated attacks, and said it was important that victims report any offences and called on ESEA communities and the police to work together to stamp out hate crime.

*The murder of Stephen Lawrence

Stephen Lawrence was a black British teenager from Plumstead, southeast London. He was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Well Hall, Eltham on the evening of 22 April 1993.

The police investigation into his murder sparked widespread controversy around changes of attitudes on racism and the police. Following the scandal, a public inquiry was launched in 1998 that examined the initial Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation and concluded that the force was institutionally racist.


Linda Chung, director of the Camden Chinese Community Centre and another Core Team member of CARG, has been working closely with the police force in London. She says, “I think our communities are very wary, if not distrustful, of the police. A considerable amount of work is needed to improve relations, and to build constructive bridges.”

She also attributed the reluctance of reporting hate crimes by ESEA groups to the uncertainty of it actually being followed up and concern about the effectiveness of the outcome in light of the pandemic, as evidence gathering is more difficult and time-consuming, and “victims do not think they will be believed.”

Having lived in the UK for over forty years, since moving from Hong Kong with his family at the age of six, Tse thinks that Chinese culture, which combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism that teaches filial respect and obedience, had an influence on the first and some of the second generation of overseas Chinese. “Our parents may have inculcated some traditional cultural values, which includes harmony and respect and not necessarily rocking the boat,” says Tse.

“So, the police may have thought that our community was too passive in the past, and they could get away with ignoring our voices, since our demographic wasn’t as large as the Black or South Asian communities. But after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, the Macpherson Report identified institutional racism in the police, and great efforts have been made over the last 27 years to eradicate this social injustice.”

He continued, “for the ESEA third and fourth generations, their upbringing and education has really changed in the era of social media. They’re more integrated and confident about speaking up online about social justice. That’s been really encouraging.”

In a statement from Met Police, it said “Hate crimes are often distressing for victims and cause great harm to communities, and the Met takes a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in all its forms.”

“The Met has received a number of reports about hate crime incidents where people in certain communities have been targeted in the context of the Coronavirus outbreak. These incidents have involved the use of aggressive and offensive language both in the real world and online, and physical violence in a small number of cases. These types of crimes are deplorable, and we continue to monitor these incidents and direct resources accordingly.”

“We work closely with a range of community partners to tackle hate crime by engaging with affected communities, supporting victims, and bringing prosecutions where appropriate.”

Dr Michael Ng is an associate professor at the University of Southampton and chairman at the Chinese Association of Southampton. He has been in close communication with Hampshire Police since the racist attack towards Chinese students that took place on 17 March.

He said understanding the procedure of police investigation is the first step to improve the relationship between the police and ESEA communities. “It’s a two-way communication. It is for us to understand the difficulties [that the police may have]…and they need to learn more about our communities as well.” 

Victims’ perception is central to police investigation and subsequent prosecution. – Mick Conboy, CPS hate crime manager

Speaking on a hate crime awareness webinar hosted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Mick Conboy, CPS hate crime manager stresses that victims’ perception is central to police investigation and subsequent prosecution. “Only when victims report an offence as hate crime will police have to investigate it as a hate crime and will it be prosecuted as hate crime when it comes to CPS,” said Conboy. He also advised victims to make sure to include reference to any derogatory language in their written statements to help establish a hate crime case successfully.

The discussion also acknowledged that the ethnicity classification on the crime recording system needs to be improved to boost confidence in reporting such offences where ESEA are targeted victims.

Data released by the Met police shows 63 racist crimes where the victim’s Self Classified Ethnicity is recorded as “Chinese” in the first three months of 2020 as opposed to 20 cases during the same period of time the year before – a threefold increase.

Whereas the number of racist crimes where the victim’s ethic appearance is recorded as “Oriental” was 186 between January and March 2020 compared to 94 during the same period in 2019. Noticeably, the report says, “it is likely that any numbers presented represent an undercount of the true situation” as less than a third (27.2%) of victims who reported racist offences during the requested period had a self-classified ethnicity (SCE) while the rest victims left a blank value for SCE. 

Another report given by Met police which includes the count of oriental victims of racial hate crime says that “East Asian and South East Asians do not appear in our ethnicity categories on the Crime Reporting Information System (CRIS)”. The data shows a total of 337 counts of “Oriental” victims of racial hate crimes between 1st January and up to the end of June this year, of whom 120 are recorded as “Chinese or Other-Chinese”.

In response to this issue, Conboy said, “Data based on the  Electronic Case Management system was never designed to identify specific ethnicity…we know the limitation of our own data…this old system will be replaced in due course with a system called Common Platform…we’re more than happy to engage with communities to build up the system.”

The £280m new digital case management system introduced by the government in 2016 is designed to integrate all case materials on a single system. It has been tested in magistrates’ and Crown Courts for criminal cases from September this year, according to HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

Trials have begun in Derby with courts in Croydon, Guildford, Warrington, Bristol and Llanelli opted in so far. It is expected that this system will be rolled out to all criminal courts across England and Wales over the next 12 months.

Conboy added, “We are also undertaking a review of our communication strategy this year…and we’re encouraging communities to have faith in the process by publicising successful outcomes.”

“It [hate crime] needs to be reported and it needs to be proactively investigated and prosecuted…we are having a conversation across government at the moment about the new hate crime strategy, which we believe is a great opportunity to recommit ourselves and everyone else to the principles behind the Lawrence report.”

Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North who is of East Asian descent says, “I know how worried so many in our community are about the rise in racism we’ve faced since the start of this pandemic. Chinese and East Asian people have been working hard to raise this with the government, and we’ve gone ignored. Even as an MP, it has been difficult to get people in power to listen to the problems faced by our community in recent months.”

“I won’t stop until the government acknowledges and takes action against the prejudice our community has faced over the last few months, and I need the help of everybody in our community living in the UK to speak up and make people in government listen to us.”

CARG has organised a webinar - Standing in Solidarity, on 13 Oct 6.30pm, in partnership with Tell MAMA as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

To register:

For more information about CARG, please visit:

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