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Gemma Chan and Benedict Wong call on UK government to recognise ESEA Heritage Month

An open letter with signatures from celebrities, activists and other prominent figures has been sent to the government

Kate Ng
Wednesday 31 August 2022 12:57 BST
First national support service set up for east and south-east Asian victims of hate

A number of celebrities, including Marvel stars Gemma Chan and Benedict Wong, are calling on the British government to officially recognise East and South East Asian (ESEA) Heritage Month.

The actors, along with comedian Phil Wang and Harry Potter star Katie Leung, have thrown their support behind a campaign launched by grassroots organisation besea.n (Britain’s East and South East Asian Network).

The organisation has sent a letter to the government asking it to officially recognise ESEA Heritage Month in the UK, which will take place in September for the second year running.

Other prominent figures who have signed the open letter is Patrick Vernon OBE, convenor of Windrush75, and Nova Reid, author of anti-racism bestseller, The Good Ally.

Chan, who is British-Chinese, has previously been outspoken in her support for the ESEA community in the UK and condemned racism and hatred towards people of Asian descent during the Covid pandemic.

She said in a statement: “It’s more important than ever that we recognise the contributions and history of all communities that are a part of modern Britain.

“ESEA Heritage Month is an important celebration that allows our community to proudly connect with and embrace their ESEA heritage.”

The Eternals star gave her backing to the Stop ESEA Hate campaign in May 2021 and revealed that her parents faced verbal assaults since the start of the pandemic.

ESEA communities faced a major rise in racially-aggravated violence and discrimination as the source of Covid-19 was linked to China.

In March 2020 alone, when the pandemic began, the Met Police recordeed 101 incidents of racist hate crimes against people of “Oriental” ethnicity, nearly three times the number recorded in March 2019 and 2018.

Mai-Anh Peterson, co-founder of besea.n, said: “We launched ESEA Heritage Month last year in response to the 179 per cent increase in hate crimes towards ESEA people in London at the start of the pandemic, a trend that has been reflected in other parts of the country.

“Our aim was to provide a safe space to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of ESEA people in the UK, as well as bringing joy to the community.”

The group launched ESEA Heritage Month in September 2021 for the first time, with more than 70 events hosted and reaching nearly 10,000 people, it says.

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