#Arts & Entertainment
United Kingdom

The first recorded Chinese in the UK, Shen Fu Tsong, was a celebrated guest at the court of James II in 1685. The British Chinese/East Asian (BC/EA) community grew during the 20th century & at 1.6% is now the UK's 3rd largest ethnic minority.

Art is a mirror to life & everyone needs cultural affirmation. BC/EA people are not reflected adequately in mainstream TV, film, theatre or radio, so remain "culturally invisible". This impacts negatively on the British public, who end up with stereotyped misunderstandings of this particular cultural group, eg. criminal, always speak with foreign accents or are illegal immigrants selling dodgy dvd's.

BC/EA children & young people top academic polls, largely due to the importance of education in Confucian culture. However, they need positive BC/EA role models to value both sides of their cultural heritage. Without BC/EA role models, they can sometimes internalise racism & reject the positive aspects of their parents' culture. What a waste of human potential.

Many young adult BC/EA's seek better equal opportunities in East Asia. What a brain drain for the UK, especially with the current rise of China, Korea etc and East Asian identity. We need to value these bicultural young people as a national asset, key international bridge-builders for the future. The UK needs to develop closer economic/political/cultural ties with rising China & other East Asian countries.

Why are the Welsh proud of learning 2 languages and have their own language TV/radio stations? Because that promotes their bicultural heritage. Why do sports stars Martina Navratilova, Tom Daley or actor Ian McKellen coming out gay have a positive effect for LGBT young people? Because cultural affirmation helps people feel they belong to society.

It's unacceptable that the vital, hard-working BC/EA community contributes taxes & 1.6% towards the total BBC licence fee, subsidising everyone else's cultural needs, while commissioners, producers, directors, writers, casting directors etc, ignore BC/EA history & their long presence in the UK.

We respectfully request that the BBC - the UK's publicly-funded and most accountable broadcaster - takes steps to introduce a three-dimensional British Chinese family into their highest-rated soap opera, EASTENDERS on BBC1 (they’ve successfully done this with the South Asian family, the Masoods). With input from BC/EA dramaturgical consultants/writers, this would immediately normalise and transform BC/EA lives in the UK, ending decades of discrimination.

Another long-running radio drama series - in which the introduction of a regular British Chinese family would have significant cultural impact - would be The Archers on BBC Radio 4.

Characters and families who are White, South Asian, Black, LGBT and disabled are successfully represented on Eastenders - but there is no British Chinese family/EA presence, despite these communities long history in the UK. Why? Could this be “unconscious bias / institutional racism”? (the latter phrase coined by the Macpherson Report and acknowledged by the Arts Council’s Eclipse report as endemic in the arts). Does the BC/EA communities suffer "indirect discrimination" as defined by the Race Relations Act? These barriers to social inequality need to be urgently addressed. We wish the BBC to be an example of "best practice' for diversity for all media companies around the world, especially in the UK.

The largest concentration of British Chinese is in London. The first Chinatown was in Limehouse in the East End of London. There is a wealth of BC/EA talent, as demonstrated in the CBBC series Spirit Warriors and Teacup Travels, in the BBC mini-drama One Child, and in the work of YellowEarth.org, Papergang, Moongate, 1,000 Cranes and other emerging theatre companies.

High profile productions such as Wild Swans (Young Vic), The Orphan of Zhao (RSC), The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Hampstead), Chimerica (Almeida/West End), The World of Extreme Happiness, Yellowface (RNT) shows that there's a mainstream British audience for Chinese/East Asian content, storyline and actors. Chinese/EA actresses have appeared as regulars on The Bill, Coronation St, Holby, Casualty, Bad Education & Torchwood. Only once did C4 introduce a British Chinese family on Brookside, and only once did the BBC feature a British Chinese male lead in The Chinese Detective.

Now it's time for a British Chinese family to appear on the BBC’s flagship TV drama, EASTENDERS, as well as on Radio 4's THE ARCHERS. (Chinese is the largest diaspora amongst the East Asian communities, although other E.A. characters should also be introduced)

After 8 years of Obama signifying progressive diversity in the USA, it's time for the UK to accelerate its professed commitment to internationalism and diversity. It's time for positive change.

(See also #ActforChange)

We, the undersigned, call on commissioners, producers, directors, writers, casting depts etc, working in mainstream arts organisations (BBC, C4, ITV, SKY, BAFTA, RNT, RSC etc) to create more regular British Chinese/East Asian (BC/EA) characters & documentaries, and cast more BC/EA actors & presenters on TV, film, theatre & radio.

This particularly and urgently applies to the BBC's need to introduce a British Chinese family on EASTENDERS, their most popular soap on TV, as well as THE ARCHERS on Radio 4, which would immediately help to redress the current woeful under-representation in the UK.

Art is a mirror to life & everyone needs cultural affirmation. Why does the BBC show Eastenders alongside a Classic drama? To affirm both working class and upper / middle class life and experiences.

We respectfully call on the BBC to introduce a British Chinese family on the long-running TV series, EASTENDERS, as well as the popular radio drama THE ARCHERS, to end decades of discrimination and enforced "cultural invisibility" of the BC/EA communities. This sector has contributed to the UK through taxes and paying the licence fee while getting very little "cultural affirmation" back.

The majority of BC/EA's live and work in London; the first Chinatown was in Limehouse (East End); but there are no regular BC/EA characters or family on Eastenders. White, South Asian, Black, LGBT and disabled characters are represented - but no BC/EA. Why?

A vast number of British Chinese grow up scattered across the country in small rural market towns, so why is there no regular Chinese presence on The Archers?

We, as reasonable, internationally-minded people - irrespective of race, colour or creed - call for the immediate implementation of inclusive casting/commissioning strategies to reflect the genuine diversity of the UK.

The first recorded Chinese in the UK, Shen Fu Tsong, was a celebrated guest at the court of James II in 1685. The BC/EA community grew during the 20th century & at 1.6% is now the UK's 3rd largest minority. BC/EA's work in almost every profession throughout the UK, yet still remain culturally invisible in the media.

It's time to implement strategies to ensure equal opportunities and enable all arts organisations to embrace the enterprising BC/EA community. Only then will we, as a nation, reflect the legacy, cultural aspirations and values of London 2012.

It's time to take urgent action, particular given the BBC's Charter to "represent the nation". The quickest, most obvious change would be for the BBC to introduce a British Chinese family on Eastenders and The Archers.

(See also #ActforChange)

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The Let's get more British Chinese/East Asians on TV, film, theatre & radio petition to BBC, C4, ITV, C5, SKY, BAFTA, BFI, RNT, RSC, DCMS, ACE, SOLT, TMA, ITC was written by dtks888 and is in the category Arts & Entertainment at GoPetition.