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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Chinese fight foot-and-mouth claims
Wing Wai Chan in restaurant
Business has slumped at Wing Wai Chan's restaurant
By BBC News Online's community affairs reporter, Cindi John

Chinese catering associations have joined together to condemn what they say are unfounded allegations that the industry is responsible for the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

At a meeting in London earlier this week, a national organisation was founded to challenge the claims.

Restauranteurs and takeaway owners said their business has dropped off by up to 40% since claims last week that meat imported illegally for a Chinese restaurant and later used in pigswill was the cause of the outbreak.

Wing Wai Chan of the Yangzhou Association, which represents Chinese caterers, said many members had complained of a down-turn in business since the allegation began circulating.


This irresponsible scare-mongering has shaken the community to its foundations and threatened our livelihoods

Jabez Lam
Community leader

Mr Chan said business in his two restaurants had dropped by a third and he had no doubt this was due to press reports of the allegation.

"Some regular customers come in and say some of their friends believe the story that foot and mouth originated in a Chinese restaurant, that's why they're staying away," he said.

There are around 12,000 Chinese takeaways and 3,000 Chinese restaurants in the UK.

They employ up to 80% of the Chinese workforce and Mr Chan believed the drop in business could lead to people being laid off.

He called on the government to clarify the situation, saying they believed the original allegation came from the agriculture ministry, MAFF.

Jabez Lam
Jabez Lam: Determined to find source of allegation
"There are so many affected restaurants in this country and we need a categorical statement from the government to clear this rumour," he said.

Jabez Lam, of the National Civil Rights Movement, said they had already delivered a petition to Downing Street calling on the prime minister, Tony Blair, to investigate where the rumour came from but were still waiting for a response.

But speaking to BBC News Online, a MAFF spokesman categorically denied they were the source of the press reports.

He added there was no inquiry underway into how the allegation surfaced because they were certain it had not originated from MAFF.

Action

Jabez Lam said the Chinese community had now prepared a plan of action to draw attention to their demand for a retraction of the allegation. It will begin in London this weekend with a demonstration in Chinatown.

Mr Lam said the Chinese community were determined to pinpoint where the allegation came from.

"We are determined to take all possible action, including legal action, once we have identified the culprit," he said.

Jack Tan
Jack Tan said press reporting was biased
He added they would also be asking the Commission for Racial Equality to investigate whether there was any case for bringing charges of incitement to racial hatred. A complaint would also be made to the Press Complaints Commission about the media coverage.

The editor of Dimsum, a British Chinese community website, said they were particularly concerned by the way the story had been reported by some newspapers.

Jack Tan said he believed some stories were xenophobic.

"We are targeting what we see as stereotyping of the Chinese community as a foreign community living like the enemy within.

"The fact is that the Chinese community has been in this country for close on to 200 years and since then we have been feeding the British public, doing their laundry, we've been creating jobs.

"But of course none of this is relevant, all that's relevant is the stereotype," Mr Tan said.

Mr Tan said they had contacted newspapers in an effort to put across the Chinese perspective and were also encouraging visitors to their website to write letters of complaint and contact their MPs.

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