Refugee families from Hong Kong tell of the hate they experienced relocating to Blackpool during Covid-19 era

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They weren’t met with the welcome they had hoped for. 

Two refugee families who relocated from Hong Kong to Blackpool have told of the abuse they faced, including being blamed for Covid-19.

When Cheng moved to Blackpool in 2021, he came with the hope of restarting his life, writes Shikhar Talwar. He left behind his life as a local business owner at least in part due to political tension in Hong Kong. 

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Cheng with his wife and two daughters applied for the BNO visa and was granted entry into the UK in August 2021. The government chose his family along with 216 other Hong Kongers to live in the Metropole in Blackpool - a Britannia Hotel chain that is regularly cited as among the worst in the UK.

The government chose Cheng and his family along with 216 other Hong Kongers to live in the Metropole in Blackpool.The government chose Cheng and his family along with 216 other Hong Kongers to live in the Metropole in Blackpool.
The government chose Cheng and his family along with 216 other Hong Kongers to live in the Metropole in Blackpool. | UGC

Unfortunately, he and his family weren’t met with the welcome they had hoped for. 

Within a month, then-Conservative MP Scott Benton, issued a statement which said that he wished Westminster had not chosen Blackpool as the place to house refugees. 

Benton was not the only person to speak out against the plan. Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys said that the choice of accommodation was ‘deeply inappropriate’ while Lynn Williams, council leader for Blackpool Council, said she had ‘serious concerns.’

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Speaking to Shikhar Talwar of the Blackpool Lead, Cheng, who works as a chef, said: “I came here to see somewhat of a change in life, but in the very first instance I was provided with hate.

"I was essentially told that I was not welcomed here, and in the weeks to come my interactions with other people certainly showed that.

“My daughters would love going to TCB (The Chinese Buffet), down on Church Street, which is just a five-minute walk from here. But on the walk there occasionally we would get to hear slurs and get told that we are the reason Covid-19 happened.” 

While Scott Benton did not respond to The Blackpool Lead’s request for comment, Cheng, reiterates the fact that he does not blame him.

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He added: “I don’t blame Benton, but I blame the general system that led to this.

"I mean if nearly millions were trying to come to my country I would be proud to see what my country is offering them, but sadly here that is just not the case.”

In August of 2023, after living in hotels and bed and breakfasts across the city, Cheng finally found suitable housing for his family.

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Jack - a single mother-of-two who came to Blackpool at the same time as Cheng and his family told the Blackpool Lead she also had similar experiences to Cheng and had to relocate to a different area of Blackpool as a result. 

On one occasion, she was dropping her children off at a Blackpool game, when a man under the influence of drink or drugs yelled in her face 'What are you people doing here? We voted to not have you here, do you not realise that you are not welcome?'

Her relationship with her local area has seen positive developments of late.

She said: "It has taken a while, but finally I think we are being accepted as just residents of this town. And it may take a while more before we don’t feel it, but it may not always be like this.

"Racism is still prevalent. Moving areas has not changed it for me.”

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