Covid-19 is the first time I experienced racist abuse in the UK, says Chinese vicar

Reverend Hin Lai 'Harry' Ching is priest to the Chinese congregation at St Martin in the Fields in London.(Photo: St Martin in the Fields)

A Hong Kong-born priest in London has expressed his surprise at the racism he experienced in the UK after the outbreak of Covid-19. 

Rev Hin Lai 'Harry' Ching said in an interview with the BBC that he "never would have imagined my Chinese identity would be exposed and abused in that way". 

Rev Ching is assistant vicar for international ministry at St Martin in the Fields in central London, where he is priest to its Chinese congregation. 

He was born in Hong Kong but came to the UK in 1997 to attend boarding school. He then trained as a minister in Hong Kong and served his curacy in Dubai. 

After returning to the UK, he received his minister's licence in the last week of February 2020, just before the first national lockdown.

"I lived in Britain for many years before wearing a clerical collar, and this is the first time I've been racially abused by strangers," he said. 

He recalled a "misunderstanding" when he went to buy communion and was served by an Italian gentleman at a time when Italy was being ravaged by coronavirus.  

"Obviously there was something in our interaction he didn't like or maybe it was because of the atmosphere here, but he completely took what I said the wrong way and it took us a few minutes, with another colleague of his involved, to resolve the misunderstanding," he said. 

"For me, things like that are unprecedented because I've integrated into this country very well. I went to school here and I see myself as British too, so I never would have imagined my Chinese identity would be exposed and abused in that way."

There were reports of racism towards Chinese people in the UK after Covid-19 broke out first in Wuhan China, before spreading around the world.

Rev Kong Ching Hii, who leads the King's Cross Methodist Church (KXMC) in London, said that someone had shouted "you Chinese, go home" at a Chinese Methodist minister in Birmingham.