Alleged racism, financial woes: Covid's impact on Newcastle's Chinese community

Newcastle's Chinatown.
China Town in Newcastle. The city's Chinese community has been speaking to ITV Tyne Tees. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Six months after the first reported cases of Coronavirus in York, members of Newcastle's Chinese community have told ITV News Tyne Tees they have suffered racism and financial woes as a result of the pandemic.

Francesca Lee, who is Chinese and was born in Newcastle, said as soon as Covid-19 took hold of the nation, the discrimination started.

She told ITV News that the Chinese community "want to speak up" for themselves, but are afraid of the "repercussions".

Way back in February when the first two people to be diagnosed with the virus were treated at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Hospital after being transferred from York, it sparked an initial surge in alleged racist incidents targeted at the Chinese community. 

At the time the epicentre of the virus was in Wuhan in China. The alleged incidents, which included attacks on Chinese students in the city, led to the Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University, Chris Day, issuing a letter calling for calm.

Francesca had already started being targeted for abuse by this time and said it has continued during the lockdown.

Francesca Lee, a member of Newcastle's Chinese community. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Francesca said her friends and family were "scared" to go out after hearing about reports of "people getting beaten up in the streets just for being Chinese". 

She added "you obviously want to speak up for yourself, but then what are the repercussions for doing that? So yeah, it’s a bit frightening really".

'Fights in the street'

Her story is not isolated. Sandra Lee, a committee member of the North East Chinese Association said she is also aware of a number of alleged racist incidents in the city's China Town.

The Dojo restaurant. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

China Town Economic Impact

China Town, which has built up and integrated in Newcastle for the best part of 40 years, has itself been impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown. 

The numerous restaurants on Stowell Street were forced to close their doors and some businesses were forced to venture into the takeaway market.

Esther Lee, who is Chinese, runs the Japanese restaurant Dojo's. She told ITV News she has had to reduce the capacity in her restaurant from 18 to nine tables and added to that, she has already lost around half of her regular custom, because most of the Chinese university students have gone back to China due to the pandemic.

Opening her restaurant for dining for the first time on Friday night since the lockdown was eased, she said she needs local residents to start booking tables again or else the business may become unviable.

  • Watch Kris Jepson's report here: