Comprising handwritten letters, photographs and oral histories, the new British Library Exhibition, “Chinese and British” has links to Bristol.
It highlights the fact that the Chinese British community in the UK is over 300 years old. It coincides with the largest organised migration to the UK from outside Europe since the Windrush generation. Over 300,000 people have left Hong Kong on the British Nationals Overseas visa scheme. Bristol is the fourth most popular destination for those arriving.
“Xenophobia is a real issue for the East Asian community,” says the Revd Mark Nam, the Diocesan Minority Ethnic Vocations Champion. “Statistics show a 300% rise in hate crime against East Asians over the last two years. In terms of racial justice, this exhibition is the first of its kind and very important,” he says.
Mark’s family have been in the UK over 100 years. He is third generation British Born Chinese (“BBC”).
His family have loaned pieces to the British library for the exhibition. These include his grandparents immigration documents and a photograph. The paperwork records Mark’s grandfather’s first occupation as ‘laundryman’ and more distressingly lists both his grandparents as ‘aliens’.
“I am reminded of the scripture verse which says, "you are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints’” (Eph 2:19) says Mark. “It’s important when we think about racial justice that the bible says that, and through the Church we have hope.”
“Society is very divided and fragmented, whilst exhibitions like this give a counter narrative, the Church should also be leading the way. That’s why I’m delighted that the Diocese of Bristol have recently appointed a Racial Justice Officer, Rashida Hartley and that aspects of the exhibition will be on show for three months in 2023 at Bristol library,” he says.
The free “Chinese and British” exhibition runs at the British Library in Euston, London until April 23. Dates for the Bristol touring display will be announced later.