We need to celebrate the contribution British-Chinese people make to our country
The Blossom Awards are the first-ever awards focused on British-Chinese people – and we’re looking for inspirational, unsung figures from every constituency, writes Alan Mak MP | PA Images
We’ve launched The Blossom Awards to recognise the British-Chinese community’s amazing successes in the UK
My maiden speech almost five years ago started with a unique story. It focused on how my father had inspired my journey to the House of Commons:
“He had escaped communism and dictatorship to find freedom and opportunity here in Britain. He worked as a waiter and a bartender, standing at the back of restaurants. It was tough work, but it allowed him to save up and open a small shop up in Yorkshire with my mother. We lived above our shop, and much of my childhood was spent working in it. That journey from the back of the room to the front – from the shop floor to the Floor of this House – sums up the spirit of the opportunity society that my family and I have cherished, and which we must safeguard for future generations.”
Whilst first generation British-Chinese immigrants like my father toiled away night and day in takeaways, restaurants and laundries, their British-born sons and daughters have flourished in an impressive range of fields unimaginable to their parents.
This is often powered by a relentless focus on education and learning. From primary education to GCSEs, British-Chinese pupils had the highest level of attainment out of all ethnic groups last year, while over 80% stay in education after sixth form. Today, the creativity and entrepreneurialism of Chinese-heritage Britons is everywhere, from our screens to our shops.
Actresses Gemma Chan and Jing Lusi are making a name for themselves in Hollywood after rising to prominence in Dr Who and Holby City respectively while astrophysicist Kevin Fong has worked with the UK Space Agency to help further British involvement in human space flight. Jimmy Choo-protégé Beatrix Ong received the MBE aged just 34 for her shoe designs whilst Alan Yau popularised modern Asian cuisine with his Wagamama noodle bar chain.
Those are some of the famous faces and well-known stories, but there are many others. In fact, across all four nations of the United Kingdom, there are thousands of other British-Chinese making a big difference in their communities too. Away from the limelight, these unsung heroes are our teachers, small business owners, NHS staff, carers and Armed Forces personnel.
While numerically smaller than other BAME groups, the 400,000-strong British-Chinese are still the country’s third biggest ethnic minority, making an outsized and positive contribution to our economy and society often without any recognition.
In many areas of public life, British-Chinese people are still under-represented. The latest figures show less than 1% of all Honours went to British-Chinese recipients and just 0.3% of civil servants are British-Chinese. There are just a handful of British-Chinese councillors and it wasn’t until May 2015 that the first British-Chinese MP was elected.
And despite having the highest-earning power of any ethnic group and the second highest BAME representation in higher managerial and professional occupations, British-Chinese business leaders are not well-represented around FTSE100 boardroom tables.
British-Chinese people are our friends, colleagues and neighbours – and for MPs, our constituents. To counter the prejudice against them that has arisen since the coronavirus outbreak, there is no better time to shine a light on their endeavours and successes.
Instead of a vulnerable minority open to attack in tough times, we must change perceptions and present a more accurate picture of the British-Chinese community today: a modern, patriotic community of diverse talents whose contributions to our national life are varied and valued.
That's why I'm launching The Blossom Awards – a new initiative to celebrate the work of brilliant individuals from the British-Chinese community, and shine a light on the contribution that British-Chinese people as a whole make to our country.
These are the first-ever awards focused on British-Chinese people – and we’re looking for inspirational, unsung figures from every constituency who have achieved outstanding success or made a difference to society.
Nominations are now open, and I hope the Awards will bring to light stories of determination, courage and accomplishment that inspire us all.
Alan Mak is Conservative MP for Havant and co-founder of The Blossom Awards. Nominations are now open online here.