The Murder of Mee Kuen Chong

Police investigating Chong’s body found in Devon woodland. Source: The Mirror

Mee Kue Chong, a 67-year-old Malaysian woman, was found dead on June 27 in the town of Salcombe, 200 miles away from her home in Wembley, London after being reported missing on June 10. Her body was found decapitated in the woods off of Bennett Road. Police reported that her body had likely been there for “some days.”

Chong, who was also known as Deborah by many within her community, had been living in Wembley for over 30 years. She was described by a fellow church-goer as “a very vulnerable person, ” who also described Chong to be, “very innocent, and very trusting of people.” A post-mortem autopsy report could not find a conclusive cause of her death. But on July 6, 36 year-old Jemma Mitchell from Brondesbury Park was arrested and charged with the Murder of Chong.

Mee Kuen Chong. Source: Metropolitan Police handout

The police are continuing to piece together the events between June 10, when Chong was reported to be missing, and June 27, when her body was found. Crime scenes remain at residences in North West London (where Chong lived) and the Woodlands in South Devon where Chong was found. Chong’s family, who live in Malaysia, have been contacted and have been working with the police to understand what happened.

Since the UK’s first lockdown due to COVID-19, Britain’s East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) communities have seen a 300% increase in hate crimes. These hate crimes are a blatant display of xenophobia towards Asian individuals. This treatment also extends to political rhetoric. Sarah Owen, a member of parliament in the Labour Party, reported that two fellow members of parliament referred to Chinese people as “those evil b—-s.” These members are both unnamed. The hatred and bigotry that appears behind these political, power-holding machinations is reflective of how charged and ingrained hatred towards East and Southeast Asians has become.

Dear Asian Youth London, a chapter of our organization, has put out the following statement:

“We are incredibly saddened to learn about this horrific killing of Ms Chong. Whether racially motivated or not, her initial disappearance for more than a fortnight had not been widely reported. Even now, it is clear that mainstream media outlets have given little to no coverage on this brutal incident that has taken the life of an elderly Asian woman.

This highlights the discriminating bias in mainstream media when it comes to reporting. In February 2021, Bennylyn Burke, aged 25 and her two-year old daughter were murdered in Dundee. In March 2021, 16 year old Wenjing Lin was murdered in her family’s Chinese takeaway in South Wales. All of these women were of Asian origin. The brutal murders of these young women were reported on the news, but with very little media coverage. ESEA women being killed should cause widespread outrage and grief, but instead, are not facilitated by the media to get the attention they deserve. With Ms Chong’s case, we need answers. The ESEA community needs answers.”

Vigil for Bennylyn Burke and her two-year-old daughter. Source: London News Pictures

Chong’s murder, set against the backdrop of pernicious anti-Asian rhetoric, is unfortunately just one out of several violent crimes committed against Asian people in the past year. Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic being associated with China and Chinese people, racial discrimination and violent attacks against Asian people have become prevalent, as a result of blatant sinophobia and racial scapegoating. Some of the major headlines in the past year highlight growing violence: Six ESEA women were killed in Atlanta in March of 2021, 19-year old Christian Hall was murdered by police in December 2020 when experiencing a mental health crisis, and Bennylyn Burke and her 2-year-old daughter were murdered in February of 2021. There are still thousands of violent acts of racism perpetrated against Asians that have gone largely unreported in the Western world.

The lack of publicity regarding Chong’s case has left the Asian community worried about racial bias in the media. Hau-Yu Tam, chair of End the Virus of Racism, an intersectional campaign against the rise of East and South East Asian hate crimes, wrote, “Why was it not more widely reported when she disappeared?… Because she was an older Asian woman, there didn’t seem to be any interest at all.” Tam compared Chong’s story to Sarah Everard, a London woman who was abducted and murdered by a police officer earlier this year. Tam questions if the outcome could have been different if Chong had gotten more media attention.

When headlines such as ‘Made in China’ or ‘China kids stay home’ were plastered on numerous high-profile media news outlets such as the Washington Post, BBC, Der Spiegel, and the Daily Telegraph; conspiracy theories on government interference in the source of the virus were consistent topics of discussion, playing into fears of the east, while ignoring their own government’s failures. Consistently perpetuating damaging narratives that endanger the Asian Community while failing to hold adequate space to bring acts of violence and racism to light in the media is concerning. Regardless of the motivation behind Chong’s murder the prejudice in reporting and media has contributed to the normalization of these attacks.

While police continue to investigate Chong’s murder, we must take a moment to reflect on how things could have been different had there been wider media coverage. There was little reporting even when Chong had been missing for over two weeks, from any major British news outlet. This is in contrast to Sarah Everard’s case, which got widespread publicity from mediums such as the BBC within 48 hours of her missing. Even after Chong’s body was discovered, there was little done by mainstream news outlets to cover the story or bring it to a wider audience. As the ESEA community faces increasing levels of violence in Britain and abroad, little has been done to shed light on their stories. As organizations continue to push for greater reporting and coverage, news and media outlets must rise to the occasion and bring our experiences to light.

Devon and Cornwall police have put out a statement: “Anyone with information regarding any hotels or bed and breakfast accommodation that Ms. Chong may have stayed in or why she was in Salcombe should contact the police.”

“If anyone has any information which could assist the enquiry, please email [email protected] or telephone 101, quoting reference number 0700 of Sunday 27 June.”

– Current Events Editorial Staff