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Chinatown erupts over ‘hostile environment’ immigration raids

Mute woman lay down in front of Home Office van

27 July, 2018 — By Tom Foot

The protest in Wardour Street 

CHINATOWN was shut down for five hours during a strike triggered by “hostile environment” immigration raids that led to one blind mute protester almost being run over by a Home Office van.

Hundreds of traders walked out at midday on Tuesday and marched to the Home Office waving placards and chanting slogans including “No more fishing raids” and “Justice for Chinatown”.

Chinatown chiefs warn that recent restaurant raids have been “fishing” for illegal workers rather than acting on intelligence. Tensions reached boiling point on July 5 when a wailing woman protester was almost run over during a lie-down street protest in Newport Place.

Five arrests were made that day, according to the Home Office, but the chaotic scenes – dramatic footage has been circulating online – have outraged the community.

Linda Chung

Co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats, Linda Chung (right), warned the “hostile environment” introduced by the Home Office is affecting Chinese people as well as Windrush citizens.

She said: “Let’s be clear that no community wants to deliberately flout the law. The Chinese community particularly respects law. This was provoked by the heavy-handed treatment of an elderly Chinese woman, in the chaos of one fishing raid. This incident and her treatment epitomises the disproportionate behaviour of the immigration authorities. If fishing raids are truly guided by intelligence, why do it in such a public way, at the busiest times, such as to upset visitors, customers, and label the Chinese community as a load of criminals? These acts provoke hate, suspicion and mistrust. They give racists permission to attack the voiceless and vulnerable. The hostile community is in our community and we will not be silent.”

London Chinatown Chinese Association’s Joseph Wu said the raids had been a “wake-up call”, adding: “The main issues we are fighting are aggressiveness, unprofessionalism of the Home Office. We feel Chinese businesses are being discriminated against and unfairly targeted for immigration raids. We are also worried about the changes to the search system. Now the Home Office can enter without warrants and it is very aggressive and threatening.”

Restaurants shut up shop for five hours putting up posters in windows explaining the reason for the closure. Restaurants in other parts of the country showed solidarity with the strike. One thousand are believed to have taken part.

Speaking of the July 5 raids, the owner the New China restaurant Peter Ren said: “They (officers) blocked a street for three hours and we can’t even do business”. He told CNN: “It’s a small area, and the number of raids they’re doing is out of proportion and heavy- handed. I’m not against immigrant checks. But treat the Chinese community fairly.”

In a speech before the march Rev Stephen Saxby, the Labour candidate for Cities of London and Westminster constituency, said: “It takes a lot of courage to stand up for your rights and the rights for others. We all know the current government has a hostile environment for migrants. We know this country and Chinatown has been so enriched by the contribution of migrants. I want to thank all the migrants.

“This is one of the most special places in London. What a disgrace to think our government would go around and try to scoop up people in the most terrible way. We know this is one of many stories in Chinatown and across the country.”

The Home Office said: “During an intelligence-led immigration enforcement operation at Joy Luck restaurant at 5pm on July 5, five men who had no right to live or work in the UK were arrested, including the subject of the intelligence. Four men had overstayed their visas and one had entered the UK illegally.

The protest which followed saw attempts to prevent immigration enforcement officers from leaving the area with the arrested men.

“No members of the public were harmed during the incident.  An immigration officer was found to have a fractured ankle during a hospital check-up in the week following the protest.

“While we respect the public’s right to protest, it is important that any demonstrations do not obstruct our officers from carrying out their lawful business.”

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard confirmed officers attended the scene, adding that they had not received any formal complaints regarding the incident.

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