Yesterday on 3rd June, Boris Johnson finally spoke out about the disgusting but sadly unsurprising rise in anti-Chinese racism and xenophobia that has reignited fear and anxiety in the Chinese and East Asian populations in the UK, saying he “deeply disapproves” of it. He tied in his speech, where he claimed to be a “Sinophile”, with a slightly contradictory stance against the Chinese Communist Party and the unsettling uprising incidents currently at large in Hong Kong, although he said he saw “no contradiction” in his alleged views.
However, why has it taken 5 months since coronavirus was first identified in the UK and the first records of reports to authorities and retellings in the media of anti-Chinese crimes for him to try and stand up for us? Conveniently, he has only now decided to say something after pressure to address the Sino-British relations and the situation in Hong Kong, despite previous calls to do so. He must though, be given a tiny bit of credit to still be one of very few world leaders who’ve condemned anti-Chinese hostility – Canada and Australia being two of them. Even the worse version of him, Donald Trump, tweeted some sort of support – though his use of the specific yet broad and vague term “Asian American community” was flawed as was his blindness to his previous as well as subsequent comments regarding the “Chinese virus”, his anger towards CHINA and his treatment of and attitude towards Asian American reporters.
I myself was subject to, for the first time in a while, coronavirus-related racism – by none other than a mixed-race (half-Black, I presumed) woman. Someone who, no doubt is either out there protesting against anti-Black racism right now or enjoying her at least middle class lifestyle and link to part-White privilege and someone who also, no doubt, has in the past been subject to racism herself. This crime went unreported, as I am sure many others haven’t been either in the past unless it was a physical or maybe virtual hate crime. Unfortunately, the majority of Chinese and East Asian people won’t have reported more crimes, simply because 1) they don’t think a low-tier crime such as being coughed at/spat on or called names warranted a police report 2) they are too scared or 3) they don’t trust or think anything will be done.
Statistics show that there has been a 21% increase of such crimes during the crisis so far compared to last year with more than 260 reports filed as of yet, but the figure last year will have been dwarfed by the thousands more reported by other groups and will be a tiny fraction of the more than 100,000 hate crimes reported that year. But how many perpetrators of those 260+ this year so far were caught, arrested, trialled and sentenced? The only incident I have heard of was at the beginning of March when four teenagers were arrested for attacking Jonathan Mok, though no word on their (probably light) punishment. I applaud those who have been brave enough to report any hate crimes aimed at them or others, even in the face of uncertainty to any justice being done about them, but I chose not to report mine simply because I knew nothing would come of it. What is the most that bitch would have got for what she said? A warning? What any racist needs is either education or payback, simple as that. I wanted to smack her up, but knew that would get ME into trouble and I could not be arsed hanging around waiting for the police to show up to do ultimately fuck all about it.
Boris’ claims to be a “Sinophile” is like someone suddenly talking about how much they liked a dead celebrity, despite never having mentioned them before. And his further pleas to “stamp out such xenophobia” is both laughable and ironic. If there’s one British Prime Minister who could give the likes of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher a run for their money when it comes to discriminatory remarks, it’s Johnson. He only trails behind them as he has yet to follow up any comments with actions – but this failure to follow his comments of supposed support such as this one with action is another thing.
His history of making vile, stereotypical, racist and xenophobic comments or sweeping generalised statements against Muslims, South Asians, Black and African people and their countries of origin has been well-documented. He is even against Scottish people wanting to become Prime Minister (and has not publicly condemned anti-Scottish sentiments that he was responsible for publishing either). However, his anti-Chinese sentiments are less known about and although such sentiments might not actually exist or at least there’s little proof of it, he has previously mocked the Chinese accent of a female flight attendant in a column written for the Spectator, while also – however aware or blithely unaware – dabbling in the fetishisation of Asian women by calling her “sweet-faced”. Did he think by saying how sweet-faced and polite she was excused the need to purposefully misspell words to perpetuate a negative stereotype?
In a 2005 article in The Telegraph that appeared to defend anti-Chinese sentiment after the last viral outbreak but ultimately belittled China, he said “China is becoming in our imaginations the fashionable new dread, the incubator of strange diseases … nourished on nothing but rice and the spleens of pangolins” – so he was basically summing up what a lot of racists truly think of China? He went on to describe Chinese culture and traditions in ways that can only be seen as believing they are inferior to Western ones, while stressing that “we do not need to fear the Chinese” because they lack the ability to become a global superpower and ended the article by saying that they should be “encouraged to trade freely”. Yes, because clearly economical help from China is all he thought they were good for and are the true feelings of a “Sinophile”… *eyeroll eyeroll*
Furthermore, he is guilty of derogatory comments about gay people, gay rights, women, the working class and people of low income, and of course, immigrants in general. In regards to Pride Month, Boris did in fact tweet about it but again, it was chock full of irony and met with a lot of backlash. Which is hardly surprising given he compared the acceptance of same-sex marriage to that of beastiality, casually threw around homophobic slurs such as “bumboys” and called Labour’s agenda to encourage the teaching of homosexuality in schools “appalling”, while his voting history on gay rights and equality and human rights has been questionably uneven.
He also, but in response to a question live on TV and 9 days later than the original incident, agreed that “of course Black lives matter” adding that George Floyd’s death was “appalling and inexcusable” while appearing to condemn racism and then of course turning back to his main priority of “fighting the virus together” by saying he urged people to protest “peacefully” but in accordance with the rules on social distancing. This standard statement may condemn the killing but does not explicitly take the side of these protests and the movement, while underhandedly veiling his disdain for the breach of rules, violence and vandalism that has extended from it. He also used the phrase “everyone’s lives matters”, showing that while he thinks Black lives matter, he is just as concerned, if not more so for the wider population regarding the spread of the virus. This sort of even minor deflection from the slogan and movement, is repeatedly called out on by activists who promote it.
Above: Rapper Dave calls out Boris for being a “real racist” on live TV.
Thankfully the smaller anti-Chinese racism rallies that have taken place around the world were all peaceful and non-violent. Though, unfortunately they attracted little media attention in comparison to the BLM movement and even the foolish anti-lockdown protests. But why is it that our rallies were so tiny and we were once again largely forgotten? Systemic racism against the Chinese has nearly always been underlying and swept under the rug. While we are not as disadvantaged when it comes to income and education compared to other BAME people, our struggles are often downplayed and not reported upon, especially in the UK.
We are already a small minority in many non-Asian countries, we have little in the way of influential figures in this country to speak up for us, we as a collective are known to be less outgoing, confident or “loud” when it comes to speaking up for ourselves or drawing attention to ourselves, and particularly those who were not born here or have not integrated with non-Chinese people find themselves to be more reclusive, and they’re ok with that. This is also why many don’t report crimes. However, that creates two problems – we are seen as easier to target in hate crimes and we get far fewer people standing with us. Even pictures of protests seen in the US featured practically no non-Asian faces in the crowd supporting them, while there have been none in the UK yet as far as I’m aware, though it is possible one could be done as there was in 2001 when around 1000 Chinese people marched in protest against racist attacks because of foot-and-mouth disease.
It was nice to see a few friends on Facebook post or reshare something about the anti-Chinese racism that has risen in the last few months, but that was nothing compared to the number of posts outraged by anti-Black racism, the increase in large gatherings in parks and beaches or even on VE Day, as well as those aimed at Johnson and the government regarding every little thing said and done by him or at least one of his team members. There was even outrage from British Muslims after they were “urged” not to celebrate Eid outside of their homes, despite no such “urges” regarding VE Day before that, even though the Muslim Council of Britain also shared these requests with their people.
But the limited amount of posts can be blamed on the limited amount of coverage. Several media outlets reported the most prolific attacks and info about the statistics, but very few – especially British ones – reported the rallies. When was the last time you saw any article anywhere about Chinese people bar the recent ones or not about economic and political Sino-British relations? But without more people talking about it – be they us, the rest of the general public, politicians and celebrities – and attempting to make a change or help further, the majority of the country will continue to shun us, go on disgusting rants or make insensitive throwaway comments, or get away with more hate crimes.
Boris also stated he “totally understands” the anger and grief that has been felt in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and said his “message to President Trump” is that “racism and racist violence has no place in our society” – whether or not Tump will respond to that, who knows. However, Boris, being a middle-aged White man from a high socio-economic background and upbringing and in the highest position of power in the UK, cannot ever even begin to understand the police brutality, racism (both outright and systemic) that is rife in this country and world or the anger and grief felt by those who have been victim to it.
Then there’s his new stance against racism that people will continue to find baffling, hilarious and insulting, for he has failed to properly apologise for any of his remarks in the past against any of the groups he’s attacked. So unless he at least does this (not that I’d personally ever fully accept one from him now) before trying to turn his empty, contradictory words into action against what his previous hurtful and rude words have done, he is no more than, in the very least, a hypocritical, racist and xenophobic enabler and inciter standing too high on his perch of privilege to see beneath the surface. He will continue to happily turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the racism and xenophobia his cabinet, other MPs and his supporters have spouted as long as his own position is not attacked. His only saving grace is that he’s not quite as blatant or as bad as Nigel Farage, but hey, at least Farage doesn’t backtrack or change his tune when it might suit his gain.
And his calls to stamp out xenophobia and racism will continue to fall on deaf ears. Who does he mean when he says “WE must stamp out xenophobia”? Since when has any non-dictator politician really had an influence or hold on what their people say or do? His addresses to the country are widely mocked and his vague and lenient “lockdown” rules have been flouted left, right and centre since Day 1. So, what will you do about the xenophobia, Boris? Allowing 3 million Hongkongers into the UK may make you seem like a Good Samaritan, but how happy do you think they’ll be over here? They’re escaping strict CCP rules and punishments to be in a place that has proven to systematically detest (mass) immigration, has seen a shocking rise in anti-Chinese hate crimes in the first three months of 2020 alone and a place where the government and police are virtually useless and unhelpful when it comes to enforcing laws, keeping the peace or bringing justice.
If he can’t even protect the half a million Chinese people already living here from racism and xenophobia or care about them until outright asked about it too many months too late, what chance do a further 3 million have at being protected from racist White Britons who care more about “jobs” being taken from them than they do about getting themselves a job? Or feel their traditionally British hometown is being invaded by too many foreigners and threaten to leave it like their past generations had moved (such examples and more on similar topics can be easily found on the delightful Nigel Farage’s Facebook page), yet they’ve probably never been to the next town over and everything they own is made abroad? He has only truly offered to help HK in a desperate attempt to appear compassionate and find ways to boost our economy again because let’s be honest, the Chinese are only ever highly praised when it comes to how they help rake in the money. However, any attempts he might try and make of strengthening Sino-British relations will then be even harder.
In summary, you can never fully trust what any politician says, and Boris Johnson has many examples as to why nothing he says can be trusted. Now, if only he could drop his hypocritical attitude and his half-arsed attempts to curry favour with groups he’s helped to marginalise and mock to try and regain popularity and take charge as a leading heroic beacon of hope in the Covid-19 fight and upcoming Brexit fiasco. Then next, admit he has always been a thundercunt, before trying to help reshape and repair a racist-rife and racially divided Britain – that would be one of many baby steps in the right direction…