Chineses community share stories of discrimination
November 27, 2019
Gauteng, South Africa: On the 25th and 26th of November 2019 The Chinese Association Gauteng’s (TCA) presented substantive evidence in a legal case against 12 respondents accused of hate speech, harassment and unfair discrimination at the Gauteng High Court (sitting as an Equality Court).
The case concerns a series of comments made by individuals, which were posted on the Facebook pages of Carte Blanche and the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary in early 2017.
Chairperson of TCA,Erwin Pon took the witness stand and shared his painful memories of childhood taunting and teasing, including having been “made to eat chalk” by other children because he “looked different”.
Pon’s testimony included responding to each of the respondents' comments and sharing his experience of their hurt and harm.
One of the respondents, Mariette van der Linde de Klerk, denies having made the following statement: “We need to get rid of the Chinese in SA… they not welcome… they steal our economy…dogs, rhinos and now donkeys…I think the same as the donkeys can be applied to dogs and our pets”.
In response to this statement Pon said “’To get rid’ of - I took it as like insects, like vermin, to get rid of something like a pest, and again just feeling dehumanised, as if we were subhuman.” Pon also said, “It takes me back to the past when I grew up, and the ‘us’ and ‘them’ – separating us from them… that me, my family, my children, my kids, are not welcome here. And that hurt me. My kids have grown up here, they are fifth generation”.
TCA witnesses who presented written evidence to the court include:
• Prof Yoon Juan Park (based on her research on Chinese migration to South Africa in the post-apartheid period) on the corruption, harassment and racial profiling these migrant communities experience due to their race and class.
• Henry Wing (second-generation South African Chinese) on the everyday racism he faced during apartheid and living in Vrededorp in a community designated for Indian, Malay, Coloured and Chinese people.
• Melanie Yap (co-author of the book ‘Colour, Confusion and Concession: The History of Chinese in South Africa’) on the denial of fundamental rights and systemic racism against the Chinese in South Africa, dating back to the 1600s.
“We are pleased to finally have the opportunity to present our stories of discrimination to the court. These lived realities, both past and present, are important for the court to consider in understanding how such hateful, vicious comments have impacted on our long-maligned Chinese community”, says Francis Lai Hong, Vice Chairperson of TCA.
The case was brought on behalf of over 40 organisations and prominent individuals that collectively represent approximately 100 000 people from across the local Chinese community.
TCA seeks relief geared at improving social relations, including an unconditional apology, an interdict preventing similar future speech, damages, and that the respondents render community service to monitor and remove anti-Chinese hate speech on social media.
The case continues.