Meet the trustees – Yeow Poon

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Campaign Against Racism Group (CARG), consists of several trustees and core members that are located across the UK. We've caught up with our Founder and Chair, Dr Yeow Poon, who has kindly given us an introduction about himself. n n

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Who are you?

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nWhen people ask me who I am, my consistent response has been, "I am British Malaysian Chinese," as I embody the fusion of these three distinct cultures.

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My intellectual perspective is predominantly Western, while my emotional connection is rooted in Malaysia, but at the core of my being lies a strong Chinese heritage. It wasn't until my mid-thirties that I became genuinely interested in China and delved into the exploration of my personal identity. This journey led me to immerse myself in Chinese culture and philosophy, culminating in the harmonious integration of all three facets of my identity.

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During the "Golden Era" of the UK's relationship with China, I had the opportunity to visit China multiple times for professional and business purposes. In 2018, I made a significant visit to my ancestral village in China for the first time. Embracing and fusing the Chinese aspect of our identity is especially crucial for those of us of Chinese heritage in the UK, particularly if we were raised in Chinese households. This integration is key to understanding and defining who we are.

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Why did you decide to get involved with CARG?

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nPrior to 2020, although I was aware of racism directed at Chinese, East, and Southeast Asian (ESEA) individuals in the UK, particularly those employed in the catering industry, I wasn't actively involved in addressing this issue. Part of the reason for my non-involvement was that I hadn't personally experienced racism since my university days back in the 1970s. Additionally, my limited proficiency in Cantonese and Mandarin hindered my ability to communicate effectively with those working in the catering trade. n nHowever, things changed when it became unacceptable for Western politicians to label COVID-19 as a "Chinese virus" and for the media to use images of Chinese individuals to illustrate Covid-related news articles, even when the events had no connection to China or its people. This inappropriate framing led to a surge in hate crimes targeting Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian communities.

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It was during this time that Linda Chung approached me and informed me that a group of individuals in London were discussing the formation of an organisation to address issues related to the media and hate crimes. Although there was much discussion and brainstorming within the group, there was limited progress in establishing a formal organisational structure.

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Leveraging my professional background as a management consultant and my experience as the chair of various voluntary organisations, I made the decision to get involved. Initially, I took the initiative to create a CARG website, and subsequently, I proposed a development plan and structure for the organisation.

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What do you hope to achieve or see with CARG?

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nAt the same time when CARG was being established, other ESEA groups were also being formed. We decided that CARG should not be competing with them to provide reporting, victim support services and activism. Instead, we should look for a niche that covers others. Hence, we chose to focus on long-term institutional and policy changes in the criminal justice system, the education sector and recently the impact of racism on mental health. n

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My vision for CARG over the next 3 to 5 years is to establish a strong reputation by collaborating with well-established anti-racist groups, think tanks, and academic institutions, positioning us as thought leaders in our chosen areas. Credibility is crucial for CARG because, without it, we would only be invited to participate in consultation exercises, taking a passive role in forums without the ability to actively engage or influence the policy development and institutional changes that are necessary. n nRacism has deep historical roots in the Western mindset, dating back to the 15th century during the era of colonial expansion when native populations were often viewed as sub-human, to be either exploited or subjugated. While there are certainly enlightened individuals in the West, there are also many who remain unaware of their inherent biases. In the context of the UK, our British institutions, such as the police and education systems, continue to grapple with issues of racism. Real change can only be achieved through a sustained, long-term effort, with the commitment to persevere in the face of setbacks.

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nWhat does diversity, equality and inclusivity mean to you?

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I was raised in Malaysia within a multi-racial environment where racial tensions often arose, primarily due to political manoeuvring and policies aimed at rectifying economic disparities between different racial groups. During my school years, following the racial riots in 1969, Malaysia initiated campaigns promoting "Muhibbah" (Harmony) and "Gotong Royong" (Cooperation) among its various racial groups. Both concepts, Muhibbah and Gotong Royong, significantly influenced my perspectives on race, multiculturalism, social cohesion, and cross-cultural collaboration. n

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In a diverse, multi-racial society, there will always be a variety of beliefs, religions, political affiliations, and opinions. The crucial factor is to prevent our differences from polarizing and cancelling each other out. Beyond our distinctions, we share common aspects of humanity such as love, family, friendship, and dignity. Equality doesn't mean everyone becomes identical, with equal wealth. We have diverse interests, inspirations, and ambitions that naturally lead to different levels of prosperity. The key principle here is to ensure equality of opportunity in living our lives. More importantly, we should all be treated equitably under the law, with our rights as British citizens upheld. n

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Nevertheless, diversity and equality alone are insufficient. If racial groups remain isolated and fail to engage with one another, it can lead to segregated community enclaves. Therefore, it is essential to encourage inclusivity, where community groups not only share their respective cultures but also collaborate for the greater good of society. As the UK becomes increasingly multi-racial and multicultural, it becomes imperative to foster collaboration across diverse communities to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of our nation.

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What do you like to do in your spare time?

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nI used to play badminton but had to stop some years ago due to problems with my knees. I love walking in the wilder parts of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and Dartmoor but cannot do so now due to final-stage pancreatic cancer. Still, whenever I can, I will take short gentle walks in our beautiful countryside. I also love photography, primarily landscape and nature. n nNowadays, I mostly play computer games, mainly role-playing games such as Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, Black Desert Online, the Baldur Gate series, Division 2 and Elden Ring. I enjoy gardening and we grow some vegetables and fruit. My approach is to work with the flow and let the garden be a little wild, rather than everything neat and tidy. I also enjoy listening to music and watching movies.

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I continue to write thought pieces on the need for liberal democracy to adapt to a multi-polar world and the relationship between the West and China. I am thinking about writing about other subjects, such as management and leadership from my professional experience, and perhaps the issues CARG will be grappling with in the criminal justice system and education.

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If you would like to find out more about me, please visit my website: www.yeowpoon.com.

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