MORE than 130 families joined an online party to help Woking celebrate the Chinese New Year at the weekend.

Lockdown prevented their traditional lion dances in the town centre for the second year running, but members of the Chinese Association of Woking were determined to usher in the Year of the Ox in style.

“We ran films of past dances online to try to get people in the party mood,” said Clara Chipping, the association’s chairman.

“There were also Chinese cultural performances, a Chinese New Year's Eve Reunion Dinner, a live red-pocket lucky draw and interactive games and dances.

“I’m pleased that so many people got involved because this an important time for the community. It’s a time for going back to China, and all across Asia, to meet family again, and often parents would take their children to their home town during half-term.

“Of course, with travel restrictions that is not possible just now, so people stayed at home and cooked lots of great food instead. We have some amazing chefs.”

Not everything has been as positive. On top of the difficulties faced by everyone during the pandemic, the Chinese community has noticed a disturbing rise in hate crime.

“There is a section of the public who blame the Chinese for bringing the virus to the UK,” said Clara.

“It’s the way people behave around us. Stupid things, like bumping into us in the supermarket, or making it obvious that they are trying to get as far away from us as possible. Or having students picked on in school because we obviously look different.”

The association is concerned enough to have joined a programme to raise awareness of hate crime among the Chinese community.

“The training is organised by the Chinese Welfare Trust, Protection Approaches, a charity which tackles identity-based violence, and Newham Chinese Association, with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service,” Clara said.

“We joined because we noticed that many victims do not understand what constitutes a hate crime and that there is often a lack of understanding of how or why to report a hate crime.

“There is also a reluctance to take the matter to local law enforcement because victims don’t believe they will be taken seriously by the police. The Chinese as a community can be quite shy and feel easily embarrassed.”