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Coronavirus doesn’t change what the British-Chinese community offers to the nation

PUBLISHED: 10:29 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:29 07 April 2020

People hold floral bouquets and a Chinese flag as they gather outside of a park where an official memorial was held for victims of coronavirus in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province on Saturday. There is no connection between the outbreak in Wuhan and the British Chinese Community, says MP Alan Mak

People hold floral bouquets and a Chinese flag as they gather outside of a park where an official memorial was held for victims of coronavirus in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province on Saturday. There is no connection between the outbreak in Wuhan and the British Chinese Community, says MP Alan Mak

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Alan Mak, the UK’s first MP of British-Chinese heritage explains why he is organising The Blossom Awards to recognise inspirational grassroots members of the British-Chinese Community (BCC)

Alan Mak MPAlan Mak MP

Coronavirus is the biggest challenge to our way of life many of us will have faced. It’s bringing out the very best in most people, from our heroic NHS staff and others working on the frontline to the communities across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire coming together to get through the lockdown. But in others, it’s triggering the worst possible prejudices, with British-Chinese people often the target of hostility and racism.

We need to be clear: the 400,000-strong British-Chinese community, many born and bred in this country, have nothing to do with the outbreak of coronavirus in China, and no connection to Beijing’s handling of it. In fact, the British-Chinese have made this region – and our country as a whole – their home for decades, and have long contributed to our national life with diligence, patriotism and little fanfare.

Whilst first generation immigrants toiled away night and day in takeaways, restaurants, grocery stores and laundries, their British-born sons and daughters have flourished in an impressive range of fields unimaginable to their parents. Today, the creativity, entrepreneurialism and energy of Chinese-heritage Britons is everywhere.

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Alan Yau is prime example. His family moved from Hong Kong to King’s Lynn when he was 12, and they later opened a Chinese takeaway in Wisbech. Though hard work, Yau went on to found the popular national noodle bar chain Wagamama and then launch Michelin-starred restaurants Hakassan and Yauatcha. He was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his work.

Yau’s story is now well-known – but there are many others hidden away. In fact, across the whole region, there are thousands of other British-Chinese making a big difference in their communities too. Away from the limelight, these unsung heroes are our teachers inspiring the next generation, our entrepreneurs creating new jobs, our NHS staff caring for the sick, our scientists searching for cures and vaccines, and our patriotic Armed Forces personnel keeping our country safe.

British-Chinese people are our friends, colleagues and neighbours. To counter the prejudice against them from a senseless minority – and it is a minority – we must shine a light on their endeavours and successes, so that the British-Chinese are recognised for more than the outdated stereotypes and lazy clichés. Instead of a vulnerable minority open to attack in tough times, we must change perceptions and present a more accurate picture of the British-Chinese community as it is today: a modern community of diverse talents whose contributions to our national life are varied and valued.

That’s why I’m launching The Blossom Awards backed by the EDP – a new initiative to celebrate the work of brilliant individuals from the British-Chinese community. These are the first-ever awards focused on Britain’s third largest BAME group – and we’re looking for inspirational, unsung figures from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and beyond who have achieved outstanding success or made a difference to society. I hope the Awards will bring to light stories of determination, courage and accomplishment that inspire us all in these challenging times.

Nominations for The Blossom Awards are now open online: www.TheBlossomAwards.org.uk


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