Have the Chinese lost face over the Morrissey “subspecies” comment?

Sonny Leong

71683876 300x214 Have the Chinese lost face over the Morrissey “subspecies” comment?In an interview in the Guardian recently, Morrissey, former singer of The Smiths, describes Chinese people as a “subspecies” because of their treatment of animals. Morrissey is on record as vehemently denying allegations of racism on several occasions.

The response of the British Chinese community was deafening silence. Can you imagine the fuss if Morrissey had made such comments about Indians, Africans, or Jews? There would be uproar, marches down Parliament and demonstrations across the land. So where are the Chinese protests or demonstrations? Nowhere. Absolutely zilch! Have we lost our face over this comment?

Why do the Chinese complain so little? Where are the Chinese business and community leaders defending their values and pride? Why is no one from the community standing up to the authorities to insist that this sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable?

Anna Chen, performer, writer, and broadcaster who blogs as “Madam Miaow”, and is often the sole British Chinese commentator to protest against not only Morrissey’s statement, but also what she sees as the intensifying prejudice emerging in the liberal media, says:

There’s been a wave of anti-Chinese Yellow Peril fever whipped up coinciding with the rise of China as a superpower, surfacing in sensationalist scapegoating every time there’s a disaster. They’ve attempted to stick us with the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in rural England, the Gulf Of Mexico BP oil leak, even climate change when the West has been belching out carbon emissions for 160 years since the industrial revolution and look set to continue doing so at four times per capita that of the Chinese.

She has been criticised by the mainstream media in her fight against racism in the media. Here is what she says of the BBC’s celebration of Fu Manchu:

“Fu Manchu in Edinburgh” gleefully revived racist stereotypes of the Chinese I’d hoped were long-buried, and could have been subtitled, Racism for Fun.

Why present a Yellow Peril figure as if he was a real person complete with lurid wallowing in the very worst racism, dehumanising the Chinese as a race, linking us with filth, and presenting us as Bin Laden-like Western-civilisation-hating sub-humans?

There was no irony. No attempt to subject these prejudices and stereotypes of a bygone era to any kind of modern interrogation. Instead, they were re-imported, intact, into the present day. I can’t imagine the BBC vilifying any other minority group like this

The author Sax Rohmer had never met a Chinese person and was writing from malice and ignorance — the “experts” on this programme only have one of those excuses.

There’s a woeful absence of Chinese voices in the media, so when the BBC fills the vacuum with degrading Sinophobic depictions such as this one, they do a grave disservice to a significant licence-paying section of the population.

Professor Greg Benton of Cardiff University also commented:

Chinese are quite numerous in British society today, but ethnic Chinese are very underrepresented in the BBC and its programmes, which is a disgrace. This was not a very funny programme, and if it was meant to be ironic, the irony didn’t work. If you’re a young Chinese isolated in an overwhelmingly white school and community, as many if not most young Chinese are, you get a lot of mockery along these lines. Why not commission more work on that? First deal with the racist stereotyping – then we can perhaps afford to be ironic about it.

The British Chinese number more than 450,000, the largest such community in Europe, and the third largest ethnic community in the UK. Yet no senior community leader has stood up to condemn such vile vitriol from an unhip musician in search of a headline.

What would it take for the Chinese community to rise up and challenge such racist statements? What would it take to make the Chinese angry enough to take to the streets to protest? Or are we, such a passive community that we will take whatever is thrown at us so that we can live ‘peacefully’ in our host country?

I say to my community and my fellow community leaders – enough is enough – if we do not stand up for ourselves no one will. We have let down our previous generations who had survived in racist environments and we will let down our younger generation and children for not having the principles and courage to stand up to such cowards.

We portray ourselves as hardworking, law-abiding and successful. We hide behind these norms for fear of misunderstanding. Peel the layers and selfishness, cynicism, exploitation oozes from the community pores.

When criticisms are made, accusations of betrayal and disloyalty are thrown at the maker. No wonder, nobody speaks up. If the community does not feel that it has a rightful place in society then that right will be taken away from them by people like Morrissey.

It has been suggested that all the Chinese care about is making money. Yes, make your money but remember there are higher values, too. You have your self esteem, principles, culture and, most importantly, pride. No amount of money is worth it if we let our pride and values slip – we will be a forgotten community.

(Picture: Getty images)

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  • Gwei Mui

    Now is the time to stand up and be counted, to be visible

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