Chinese Xiaomei Havard Mthembu

Photo: Xiaomei Havard / Twitter

Xiaomei Havard: Criticism of SA’s Chinese-born MP branded ‘racist’

‘Xenophobic’, ‘offensive’, and ‘racist’: These are just some of the terms given to the Twitter hashtags that targeted new MP Xiaomei Havard this week.

Chinese Xiaomei Havard Mthembu

Photo: Xiaomei Havard / Twitter

Any possible merits of the argument against Dr. Xiaomei Havard’s appointment as an ANC MP this week have been sullied by examples of outright discrimination on social media – and a local human rights group has come out in support of the Chinese-born politician.

Who is South Africa’s Chinese-born MP? Xiaomei Havard targeted by ‘online abuse’

The Gauteng-based party member, who has publicly served South Africa in various capacities for the past 17 years, found herself at the centre of a fairly ugly Twitter storm on Thursday – after she was chosen to replace the late Jackson Mthembu.

Havard is a naturalised citizen of South Africa. She obtained her university degree here, and is married to a South African man. However, her extensive time on our shores means very little to a vocal cell of Twitter users: Yesterday, several targeted hashtags – including #NoChineseInSAParliament – topped SA’s ‘Trending Charts’.

Some other MPs, who should arguably know better, also decided to get involved…

Social media storm engulfs Mthembu’s replacement

The Hate Crimes Working Group of South Africa (HCWG) has condemned the abuse directed towards Xiaomei Havard. In a statement shared online, the organisation branded the Tweets as ‘xenophobic and racist’.

“The HCWG is concerned by the xenophobic and racist attacks circulating on SA Twitter, including the #NoChineseinSAParliament hashtag [which was a top trend on Thursday]. There is never an excuse to victimise anyone based on skin colour, ethnicity, or religion. With South Africa’s history, we should know better!”

HCWG statement

Xiaomei Havard Tweets ‘racist and offensive’ – Erwin Pon

Meanwhile, Erwin Pon – who is a member of the HCWG – addressed the media on Friday. He’s also a representative of the SA Chinese Association, and said that the public reaction to Dr. Havard’s selection was ‘very disappointing’:

“We are very disappointed with what we’ve read online. It’s bordering on xenophobia. People have been racist and offensive. As a Chinese community, we were so excited about this appointment. It recognises that we as Chinese people are a real part of South Africa. Our community really does whatever it can to contribute to SA”.

“We want to be part of this nation, we’ve been here for a long time. We must celebrate diversity. Having Xiaomei Havard in Parliament will help people better understand us. Our people are human beings, we also have dreams and aspirations.”

Erwin Pon