British MP pressed for apology over ‘little man in China’ comment on live TV
Multiple Chinese groups are demanding a public apology from U.K. Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Spencer over a controversial comment he made last month while talking about China on live television.
Spencer, 52, was defending former Prime Minister Liz Truss in an interview with Sky News when he made a speculative reference about “some little man in China” spying on his phone conversations.
"We all talk on personal phones, don't we? I ring my wife, maybe there's some little man in China listening to the conversations between me and my wife,” Spencer said. “You've just got to be careful about what information you use on which phone and you get a lot of help and support from the security services on that.”
The official’s remark has since drawn accusations of ignorance and casual racism. For one, Labour MP Sarah Owen, who is of Chinese descent and chairs the East & South East Asians for Labour, wrote that Spencer was “once again showing his ignorance, on many levels.”
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A little more than a week after the interview, Chinese groups based in the country collectively demanded a public apology from Spencer. Xiaojiu Zhu, a prominent solicitor with the London-based Cruickshanks firm, pushed for the apology in an open letter on behalf of the International Chinese Alliance Against Racism.
“We do not believe enough has been done. This was not just a ‘careless’ remark from a normal citizen in a private home,” read the letter, which listed more than 80 organizations in support. “It was by a Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) who was previously Lord President and Leader of the House of Commons, publicly made on a major TV station.”
Zhu went on to stress the Chinese and British people’s “long-standing relation” built on “mutual respect and shared love of civilisation.” The letter also highlighted the “huge” contribution of the Chinese community on the U.K.’s economy and daily life.
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Zhu also cited newly elected Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to bring “integrity and accountability” on his first day in office. Spencer’s behavior “certainly fell below the expected standard,” she noted.
“The government minister has not yet been held accountable for his deliberately prejudiced remarks that have hurt many and brought shame to decent British people,” the letter continued. “We strongly believe he should apologize publicly and show some respect to Chinese people.”
Speaking to CGTN, Zhu said Spencer’s comment was “an insult to any Chinese” and that the official “has absolutely no right in public to say things like that.”
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“We need to keep the reputation, the image of the Chinese, so that [Spencer's comment] is not tolerable,” she added.
Featured Image via Sky News
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