Challenging racism in the UK
When Britain suffered a severe outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 2001, the countryside was full of burning pyres of animals as the New Labour government got it desperately wrong. The Chinese community suddenly found itself scapegoated for the outbreak in a lunatic briefing by a northern outpost of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to Valerie Elliott of The Times.
Such was the degree of the disaster that farmers were committing suicide as livelihoods were lost, and anger was beginning to be diverted away from the government and onto one of the minority communities.
Broadsheets and tabloids alike carried lurid headlines such as, "Sheep and Sow Source" as the Chinese were primed for blame. The Independent was the only newspaper which looked askance at the notion of a Mr Big and his filthy foreign meat-smuggling operation as hinted at by the Press. Chinese were already being attacked in rural areas and it was only a matter of time before someone was badly hurt or killed.
The point being missed was that Chinese restaurants get their pork, chicken, beef and fish the same place as everyone else: from the butcher. However, being rendered invisible in the West, the Chinese were a blank canvas on which unprincipled politicians could project their yellow peril demons straight out of the 19th and 20th century colonialist era.
Alarmed by this injustice, many of us from across the various Chinese communities joined forces. I organised the press campaign, marshalling our scant forces across the media spectrum of radio, television, print media and the web, firefighting press attacks on us and keeping the media furnished with facts, at the same time as a handful of us held emergency meetings with the MAFF Minister, Nick Brown, and organised a demonstration.
On Sunday 8th April we closed down London's Chinatown in an unprecedented strike. A thousand Chinese and our supporters marched on the MAFF HQ where a contrite Nick Brown faced us in front of banks of press cameras and issued a public apology and a vindication of our campaign.
This was an inspiring victory that demonstrated the strength inherent in any group that sticks together to fight for what is right.
You can read the entire Foot and Mouth thread on the British Chinese Online Forum which documents reactions and responses as they happened.
The Independent: debunking MAFF's "Chinese restaurant theory" and the north-east's Chinatown rises up
AS IT HAPPENED: A CONTEMPORANEOUS ACCOUNT
Anna Chen (Madam Miaow), the protest press co-ordinator, posts from Thursday 28th March 2001:
Scapegoating in action
On Sunday the media revealed that New Labour was in deep trouble, having been discovered to have known about the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease as early as December, even ordering extra timber to burn the carcasses. Not the best of news to break for a government with a general election looming.
By Tuesday MAFF had found a scapegoat and pointed the finger of blame at the Chinese in a crude attempt to take the heat off the government. The newspapers have run with this story instead of challenging the cynical manipulation of the facts and the very dangerous game being played here.
Only a week or so ago the leaders of the main parties pledged not to play the race card in the general election and yet, here we are, racism high on the agenda yet again, thanks to this government.
With hysteria running so high, someone is going to get hurt.
Letters for starters
28th March 2001
As a prelude to a community fightback, letters have gone to the Guardian and Evening Standard about the unprincipled scapegoating of the Chinese in the Foot and Mouth epidemic. The Mirror is positively disgusting today, with its front page pic of a Chinese dinner and the headline: Sheep and sow source. It's "Voice" leader column reads:
"Yesterday we learned that illegal meat is being imported into this country and sold in some take-aways and restaurants. Think about what that means. Maybe the meal you last bought on an evening out was sub-standard or even diseased."
Then after some platitudes about most caterers being honest, it goes on: "But it only takes the odd one trying to make a quick buck to cause a disaster.
"At present the effects caused by diseased meat are only hitting animals, though plenty of humans are suffering because of it. But unlicenced meat could lead to a terrible outbreak of sickness among those who eat it. In fact, it's a miracle it hasn't already happened.
"Tony Blair should not only be thinking how to deal with the foot and mouth epidemic. He ought to be planning how to crack down on the deadly importers of illegal meat."
There's similar rubbish in the Standard and Guardian and presumably everywhere else.
Anyone who wants to begin the fightback to this with a letter campaign can try:
The Guardian: firstname.lastname@example.org (quoting "Smuggled meat blamed, 27 March")
Voice of the Mirror: email@example.com (quoting leader column heading "Meat threat must stop" or "Sheep and sow source", both from 28 March)
And copy Voice of the Mirror letters to columnist Brian Reade who is very decent, and also the political editor, James Hardy.
Brian Reade: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Hardy, Mirror political ed: email@example.com
Mirror newsdesk: firstname.lastname@example.org
28 March 2001
PROTEST: Today about thirty members of the Chinese community plus Socialist Alliance (SA) supporters marched from Chinatown to Downing Street where a delegation handed in a letter protesting at MAFF's announcement and media reporting of the issue.As a response to the FMD smear, Anna Chen, Jabez Lam, Jack Tan and several others formed the Chinese Civil Rights Action Group UK (CCRAG). Anna was made the press officer, organising the media campaign.
RADIO: At lunchtime Anna Chen of the SA was interviewed on London Live by Henry Bonsu. Henry was cordial but did ask several times, what if tests prove it came from meat in Chinese restaurants? He also pointed out that the Chinese community was normally very quiet, so how come we'd taken to the street? When are we getting parliamentary representation, and so on.
Ms Chen's response was along the lines:
"With this announcement, Nick Brown has not only hit rock bottom, he's broken through to a whole new bottom no-one ever knew existed. Why scapegoat this small section of the population who are themselves suffering on account of the large number of British Chinese who work in the catering industry?
"I would question the hygiene issue and the wisdom of using pigswill — who processed it and who fed it to the pigs in the first place? The government were warned by a Commons select committee three years ago that pigswill was a potential source of disease and yet they did nothing, presumably because the subsequent cost to agribusiness would have been too high for their liking. Restaurants are just one of many potential sources of the disease, so why foreground this one?
"Only a week or so ago, the leaders of the main parties were pledging not to use the race card in the run-up to the general election. And now, one hint of panic and that's the first weapon they reach for.
"There has been increased fear of harassment and attacks. Can you imagine what it must be like to work in a takeaway in a rural backwater, isolated and vulnerable anyway, and then the government points the finger of blame at you in a climate of hysteria?
"The whole food production and distribution system is crazy. Animals are trucked hundreds of miles to abbatoirs or to get a chit signed, saying that this animal was raised in Wales or Scotland, boosting the price. The supermarkets have also played a role in spreading this disease because they've streamlined everything, and dominate the industry. The whole food system needs an overhaul."
Tonight, Thomas Chan is on London Live Drivetime at 5.20pm
Later tonight, Jabez Lam is on Newsnight BBC2 10.30pm.
THIS HAS JUST COME IN VIA ANTI NAZI LEAGUE AND NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT:
Subject: Racist attacks on Chinese families
At lunchtime today, Tuesday 28th March, I called into a local garage in Exeter in Devon to buy fuel. There were two staff and four other customers engaged in a disturbing conversation which filled me with deep concern. Then, on my way home from work, I called in to a shop in Newton Abbot (20 miles from Exeter) to buy a local evening paper. In this shop, two customers we engaged in an identical conversation.
Today's media coverage of 'the foot and mouth crisis' has made repeated reports of the source of the outbreak as being 'imported meat destined for Chinese take-aways'. The conversations I heard in this garage and shop represented some of the worse anti-Chinese racism I have heard during nearly ten years of living in Devon - one the areas worst affected by this 'crisis'.
In short, eight people were blaming Chinese people for causing the 'outbreak of foot and mouth'. This was more than ignorant scapegoating - it was pretty hostile and angry stuff, which I don't particularly wish to type out in this Email.
For those who do not live in rural Britain you may not fully appreciate the current level of 'feelings' in rural communities as the result of this present farming catastrophe. Devon is a badly affected area, not just in terms of 'the livestock cull' - but also in terms of very hostile and reactionary attitudes. Set this into the context of the recent 'racist incident mapping research' carried out by Jay Rayner at The Observer newspaper, which identifies Devon and Cornwall as one of the most dangerous places in the country for black and minority ethnic people, you may get a better sense of my concerns. If you have not yet read this research article - please go direct to: http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/racism/Story/0,2763,439685,00.html
In almost every large village and/or small town in Devon, there are food retail business owned and run by Chinese families. These families are extremely isolated and vulnerable at the best of times. My grave concern is that already very angry people in rural Britain, will now focus much of that anger towards Chinese families operating food retail businesses in some of the most isolated parts of the Country. The media coverage today has effectively set Chinese people up 'sitting targets' for a new wave of racist attacks - especially after pub closing time.
I need to hear about what's happening elsewhere. Devon is a national hot-spot for 'foot and mouth' AND 'racist attacks'. Chinese people are, by far, the largest minority ethnic group living throughout Devon and Cornwall.
Also, I feel that there should be a massive coordinated anti-racist response to today's media coverage, based on MAFF and Government issued statements. Do these people not realise the 'current tinderbox mentality' in rural areas? A most urgent response is required, before matters get out of hand - for the safety of Chinese people in urban as well as rural areas.
I recognise this may be an over-reaction on my part. However, from two parts of the same rural county, today's message has been the same - "it's official, blame the Chinese for 'foot and mouth".
More reports to follow. I am attending a meeting in North Devon on Wednesday.
Please respond as you feel approriate.
From Britain's 'Deep South'
National Civil Rights Movement
From Jabez Lam (Co-ordinating between Jabez Lam and British Chinese Online Forum)
Thu, 29 Mar 2001
From: Jabez Lam Re: Invitation
Open invitation to a meeting in defending the Chinese community from being made a scapegoat as the source for the outbreak of foot and mouth disease
Ahead of the Agricultural Minister, Nick Brown, making his Statement to the House on 27th March, a number of national papers and national media reported that the likely source of the current foot and mouth disease epidemic is from illegal imported contaminated food supplied to Chinese restaurants. The waste from such restaurant food was then sold as pigswill, supplied to the farm in Northumberland where the outbreak began.
Such simultaneous reporting in both respectable broadsheet and tabloids led people to believe that such information must have come from reliable investigation or reports. Reports singling out Chinese restaurants led the public to believe that the investigation must have been in an advanced stage of tracing the source of the importer who committed the offence and the Chinese establishments it supplied, and the following route of the chain that fed into the farm where the outbreak of FMD began.
Such reports raised the expectation that the statement from the Agricultural Minister Nick Brown would offer conclusive evidence for such allegation and its investigation. However, the ministerial statement in the afternoon when mention about this is a sheer passing remark that read: "Hon Members will be aware of speculation that the practice of feeding swill to pigs was a cause or the cause of the outbreak." There was no mention about illegally imported contaminated meat, nor the supply of such meat to Chinese restaurants might have been the link to the alleged swill that fed the farm that the current FMD outbreak first discovered.
One has to ask the question whether such speculation fed by the media to MAFF, or by MAFF to the media? How did such speculation on feeding swill link to illegally imported meat? How did such speculation further link to Chinese restaurants?
Such reports have brought immense damages to the Chinese community. Over 70% of the Chinese community in Britain is engaged in catering or catering related trade. As food related business is the main business in the Chinese community, it shares the hardship felt by the farmers affected by the FMD and felt for the farmer of the ruin this has bought them. The Chinese restaurants and takeaway shops had already experienced a decline in business due to FMD, and it is now being scapegoated for the failure of MAFF in preventing and containing the FMD from spreading. The community now further faces the prospect of financial ruin and their livelihood being threatened. There are already reports of harassment and abuse to Chinese restaurants. The Chinese community also fears that such reports will also lead to more racist attacks.
The Chinese community condemns such irresponsible reports and is determined to find out the source of this attack on the community. A delegation from the community delivered a protest letter to the Prime Minister this afternoon (Thursday 29th March 2001) and demanded an investigation into the source of the media attack, and to bring action against the culprit under the relevant Race Relation legislations. The delegation further invited the Prime Minister to join them in condemning the irresponsible reporting.
The Chinese community invites the British media to reveal their source for this report in order to bring whomever responsible to justice.
Organisations involved in the delegation now call for a meeting to set up a united body that can represent:
a. the different interests within the Chinese community; and
b. to defend the Chinese community in face of this recent allegation.
You are invited to attend the founding meeting to discuss future strategies and actions to take this campaign forward.
Venue: Chinese Community Centre, 2nd Floor, 28-29 Gerrard Street, London W1V
Date: Wednesday, 4th April 2001
Ms Ho at Zoneast at 020 7439 ****
Mr Thomas Chan at 0774 884 ****
Mr. Jabez Lam at 07940 ******
Participating organisations and individuals:
The Chinese Takeaway Association (UK)
The UK Chinese Catering Association
The London Chinatown Chinese Association
The Monitoring Group (Chinatown)
The Civil Rights Movement
The Socialist Alliance
Yangzhou Association (UK)
Councillor Mee Ling Ng (Labour Party)
Councillor Sai Hung Shing (Liberal Democratic Party)
Councillor Chit Chong (Green Party)
Yellow Earth Theatre
Hackney Chinese Community Services
Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities
The Chinese in Britain Forum
Lambeth Chinese Community Centre
Aberdeen Chinese Community Centre (Association)
Haringey Chinese Community Centre
Chinese Community Centre
Who briefed who?
30th March 2001
This morning's Mirror hammers away at Chinese dried meat yet again, even getting a scientist — Hugh Pennington who should know better — to say that IF one of these packets was infected, and IF it found it's way into pigswill it COULD cost the country millions; despite the fact that it isn't sold in restaurants and at that price, nobody chucks it away. Again, they are diverting attention away from the Commons select committee's advice to the government on exactly this issue, warning that species should not be fed to same species and that pigswill should be banned. That was two or three years ago in the wake of BSE — the Government has still done nothing.
From what I can make out, the Guardian and breakfast tv were the first to run with the Chinese angle on Tuesday — the Mirror and Evening Standard were johnny-come-latelys, only picking it up on Wednesday.
The Guardian's Michael White and Nicholas Watt wrote:
"Contaminated meat smuggled into Britain will be highlighted today by the minister of agriculture, Nick Brown, as the most likely source of Britain's foot and mouth epidemic.
"A damning official account of the likely source of the outbreak will claim that pigs were fed meat that was illegally imported for possible use in Chinese restaurants.
"A Downing Street spokeswoman said last night: 'Nick Brown will say that foot and mouth may have entered the country through illegally imported meat fed to pigs as catering waste pigswill.'
"Mr Brown will stop short of naming restaurants which allegedly imported the smuggled meat for fear of prejudicing a possible police investigation. It is understood, however, that ministers believe officials have pinpointed the most likely source of the epidemic.
"Serving illegally imported meat in a restaurant is a serious criminal offence which would attract a jail sentence, government sources indicated last night. A restaurnat owner could be prosecuted for a breach of health and safety regulations. ...
"Unconfirmed reports last night suggested that officials in the north-east had been alerted to possible illegal activity after a container of illegal meat, labelled for a Chinese restaurant, was found concealed inside a load of household goods after confirmation of the case at the farm in Heddon-on-the-wall.
"It was being suggested that investigators are urgently checking how food from Chinese restaurants could have come to be used in pigswill — and are trying to track a meat smuggling operation that could have been going on for months."
It looks like they were briefed on Monday, White and Watt really going for it — and then the minister got cold feet by the time he had to make his speech in the Commons. I've heard that the Guardian report was erroneous in this matter, too — that the briefing came from MAFF and not Downing Street as stated in White's article.
So we need to know who at MAFF briefed The Guardian's Michael White and/or Nicholas Watt that the Chinese were in the frame? What did they actually say about the alleged Chinese connection? Why hasn't Brown issued a statement disowning the rumour and speculation that originated inside his ministry? Why haven't the government done the same? Why are some writers such intemperate, eager, slavering poodles for whatever disinformation Whitehall chooses to dole out?
2nd April 2001
TO: Guardian letters page from Anna Chen
RE: Chinese restaurants feel the pinch, 2 April
I'm glad the Guardian has at last printed some sense (Chinese restaurants feel the pinch, 2 April), after last week pinning a yellow star onto every Chinese living in Britain.
However, you are still mistaken in implying that a container of illegal meat was destined for the restaurant trade. The meat in question consisted of a few small vacuum-sealed packets of a dried meat snack, similar to Pepperami, intended purely for individual consumption and never found on Chinese menus. It was found in a container of household goods being sent from Hong Kong by an emigre whose relative happens to own a Newcastle restaurant.
Questions remain: why did Maff put the Chinese in the frame exactly when Nick Brown was due to admit in the Commons that pigswill was the most likely cause of FMD? Why was pigswill not banned despite Commons select committee advice in the wake of BSE recommending that species should not be fed to same species? Why, when the Government knew that there was an outbreak in Asia at least as far back as last summer, did they offer no advice or warning to both food retail and catering trades? Why was a computer programme tracking FMD, due to be installed by Maff at the end of the 1990s, not in place? And now, why have the Chinese been offered as a sacrifice to save the agriculture minister's political skin?
So much for the pledge not to play the race card in the run-up to the general election.
* * * * *
Ms Chen was immediately phoned by an agitated PK of The Guardian. Extracts as follows, from her notes of their conversation:
PK: You seem to know more about this than anyone else.
AC (sweetly): Well, the Independent seems to know what's going on.
PK: You mean they had it today?
AC (sweeter, even): Last Wednesday, actually.
(Then an exchange in which PK defended the tone of White and Watt's front page story from Tuesday.)
PK: It wasn't just us. We got it from The Times on Monday [whose correspondent] has good connections in Maff.
AC: Are you telling me that your Political Editor lifted the story wholesale from the Times? And without checking?
PK: Of course not!
AC: Did they (Michael White and Nicholas Watt) check with Maff?
PK: Of course they would have — they're professionals.
AC: And did Maff confirm the story?
PK: They would have checked. They're professionals.
AC: Was it professional to foreground the Chinese connection in the midst of investigations, when this is just one of many possible sources of the outbreak?
PK (ad infinitum): Of course they must have checked.
* * *
[The Guardian said that they would not be printing my letter as "there has been enough about it, already." The subsequent exchange with the Mirror was even more alarming and, I felt, intimidating. It goes on for several posts with others taking on the argument as well.]
* * *
Tony Chu of the North East Chinese Association was this morning reassured by Nick Brown (MP for Newcastle), who flatly denies briefing the media that Chinese restaurants were responsible. And Dimsum spoke to a Maff press officer last week who also denied briefing to this effect. So who is telling porkies?
There will be a national protest march next Sunday 8 April, meeting at the Gerrard Street stone lions at 11.30am and marching to Downing Street via Maff. Yasmin Alibai-Brown will be speaking, along with others. Please let everyone know. We are also asking restaurants in Chinatown to close for a token period of time — maybe thirty minutes — to coincide with the protest.
A chance for everyone to get involved ...
Chinese community groups, associations and individuals have now met and discussed a course of action. Under the umbrella name — Chinese Civil Rights Action Group (UK) — we have called for a national demonstration this Sunday 8 April. The following press release has been issued regarding Sunday's national demo to Downing Street:
CHINESE CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION GROUP UK (CCRAG)
MEDIA RELEASE 4 April 2001
* Chinese march on Downing Street this Sunday
* Shut-down of Chinese restaurants in joint protest
The recent scapegoating of British Chinese for the foot-and-mouth crisis has galvanised the full spectrum of the community into a national march on MAFF and Downing Street this Sunday.
On 26 March MAFF alleged that the source of Foot and Mouth outbreak was likely to be illegally smuggled meat supplied to a Chinese restaurant. Aided by irresponsible reporting, this scare story spread quickly and within a week, trade dropped by 40% in Chinese establishments throughout the country. The end result of the MAFF allegation and biased reporting is the suffering and disadvantage of ethnic minority communities like the Chinese.
• *MAFF highlighted the tenuous 'Chinese connection' in spite of knowing other possible sources of the outbreak.
• *MAFF were aware of the danger of an outbreak in June last year but took no steps to inform the food industry or set up preventative measures.
• *MAFF failed to install a computer program it owns that could have tracked the outbreak and prevented the spread.
• *Much of the media coverage has been biased and based on scare-mongering rather than solid evidence.
• *Fact: Chinese restaurants and takeaways do not use imported meat from the Far East. It is cheaper for them to buy from British butchers. *
• *Fact: The illegal packets of meat to which the authorities are referring are a dried meat jerky snack used exclusively for personal consumption and not for the catering trade. You are as likely to find meat jerky in a Chinese restaurant as you are Pepperami sticks at The Ivy.
STOP SCAPEGOATING THE CHINESE FOR FOOT AND MOUTH
National demonstration Sunday 8 April
Assemble 1.30pm Gerrard Street, London W1
2pm march to MAFF, Smith Square SW1, via Downing Street.
Speakers include: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown; Weyman Bennett, Socialist Alliance; Jabez Lam; Thomas Chan.
Chinese restaurants will be closing in joint protest 2-4pm
— ends —
Media update: Great letter from Jack Tan in this morning's Guardian. Interviews with BBC News Online, The Spectator, South China Morning Post, just about all the Chinese media. Really good para in a Telegraph article — I saw a print-out but haven't tracked it down, yet.
Jabez is interviewed live tomorrow (Thursday morning) at 7am on London Live's Breakfast Show. There's also something on BBC World TV (Asia) which is supposed to be run tomorrow on BBC News 24.
Carlton's London Tonight is covering Sunday's march.
Tom Cat posted 8th April 2007
Today's protest resulted in Agriculture Minister Nick Brown making a public statement about there being absolutely no connection between Chinese food and the outbreak of foot and mouth. He also condemned untrue media reporting that made connections between chinese food and the disease. As a (vote retaining) gesture of faith and goodwill, Nick Brown also accepted an invitation from the recently-formed Chinese Civil Rights Action Group to dine at a London Chinese restaurant later this month.
Sharpened claws gather no crap
Posted by Anna Chen (Madam Miaow) 8th April 2001
Well done everyone. The whole community pulled together and won a pretty cool victory. We're still awaiting the formal statement from Nick Brown and for the results of the Maff investigation into the source of the rumour, but for him to address the marchers directly and state unequivocally that there is no FMD link with Chinese catering, shows we made them take us seriously.
For your information, the organisers issued a media release as follows:
CHINESE CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION GROUP UK (CCRAG)
MEDIA RELEASE: Sunday 8 April 2001
* No Chinese link to FMD, Nick Brown tells protesters
Agriculture minister Nick Brown today vindicated the British Chinese community in the foot-and-mouth (FMD) outbreak when he told 800 protesters at Maff headquarters that there was no link between FMD and Chinese catering.
Mr Brown told the crowd of British Chinese and their supporters who had marched from Chinatown:
"I absolutely deplore the racist overtones of some of the reporting. I strongly condemn the unfounded allegations in the media. It is not fair to scapegoat the Chinese community.
"I regret what is being reported. It is not true to say that there is evidence that somehow the foot-and-mouth outbreak in the United Kingdom has anything to do with the Chinese catering business, Chinese restaurants, or anything to do with the Chinese community."
Mr Brown welcomed a delegation from the demonstration who delivered a letter requesting that he:
a) make a statement to exonerate Chinese catering and Chinese food as the source of the current outbreak of foot-and-mouth.
b) make a statement to condemn irresponsible reporting of the press.
c) investigate the source of the allegation and take appropriate action to sanction those responsible.
d) alert the Home Secretary to the increase in abusive harassment of the Chinese since the original story broke in The Times.
Jabez Lam, a protest organiser, said:
"Second-generation Chinese are coming of age. Today's events are the beginning of the recognition that the Chinese community is different from its media stereotype.
"This action was organised within four days. To get such a good respoonse and to get what we wanted has delighted us all. We've seen all sections, young and old, on the street today. This is a vital step in the emergence of the Chinese community into full participation in British society."
The Chinese Civil Rights Action Group UK (CCRAG) which was formed last week in direct response to media reports linking Chinese catering with FMD, is supported by 160 British Chinese associations and groups plus many individuals. Solidarity was shown by support from the Socialist Alliance (SA), the Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers (CDAS), and the Anti Nazi League (ANL).
— ends —
You may also be interested to know that Nick Brown issued an interim statement immediately following the meeting CCRAG delegates had with him on Saturday morning (at his request):
"I had a very constructive meeting with leaders of the Chinese community this morning.
"One issue of particular concern to them was the impression given in some sections of the media that investigations into the source of the current foot and mouth outbreak have positively demonstrated that the initial infection came from waste from a Chinese restaurant.
"This is untrue. The investigations into the source of the outbreak are still continuing, and ill-informed groundless speculation does nothing to help the situation.
"It would be totally unfair to make a scapegoat of the Chinese community or the Chinese restaurants. I have been concerned at the tone of some reporting, which seems close to carrying racist overtones. I find that utterly unacceptable.
"It is down to all of us — politicians, media, farmers — to act responsibly. This outbreak has caused great anguish and suffering, and what we need is to work together to defeat the disease."
— ends —
Peter Hitchens on how Tony Blair's government tried to blame the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak on British Chinese 15th April 2001.
The Guardian alters the squirrel's eyes. Original pic below.
Anna Chen organised the press campaign for the UK Chinese action that surprised everyone by fighting back against being scapegoated by the government for Tony Blair's failure to deal with the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak that brought rural Britain to its knees. She was also a member of the delegation that negotiated with Minister Nick Brown in the wake of the scandal.
Wow, that brings back a rush of memories, thanks for putting that "little" lot together Anna. I recall, with the pressure on (and it really was), an optimism that at last the Chinese community had somehow found their feet, and this was the beginning of a new age of a no-less polite, but somewhat more assertive community.
Alas, it was not to be. With the enemy thwarted at the (MAFF) gates, the unlikely bedfellows that had raised the standard could not help but drop it, and return to their own corners of the community, back to the business of being what Sun Yatsen (in lamenting the Chinese lack of community cohesiveness) famously described as a heap of loose sand.
But we've lived to fight many a battle since, and perhaps the route to a unified Chinese voice will ultimately come not from threats from without, but from opportunities from within.
It was an inspirational experience, a great model for how we can get along and act with intelligence when up against it. A shame the old divisions returned, but actions such as your Chinese Labour Corps memorial campaign have been impressive in uniting many of the UK Chinese. Courage and principles count for a lot.
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