British Born Chinese Singer, Song-Writer & Intersectional Feminist

I haven’t given up hope that we’re still moving forward in one way or another.


My name is Justin, I am currently a student at the University of Oxford and I am studying Applied Linguistics. My research focus is how we can implement smart speakers (i.e., Alexa) into second language learning classrooms, and to be used as a language learning assistant. In my spare time, I love to read, from romantic novels to fictions, or books about time management and biographies of all sorts. I love travelling and meeting new people around the globe, familiarising myself with different cultures and eating delicious food! Above all, singing is my biggest passion.

I want to leave a mark. I want to go after the things that I love, which is why I have decided to become a fulltime singer after I graduate from Oxford. Growing up being the youngest in the family, I have been very well protected and taken good care of. Like most other traditional Chinese parents, pursuing a career in the music industry is often considered as unstable and unpromising. I had very little freedom in making life decisions. Nobody in the big family tree has ever done anything close to music. My mom was scouted to become one when she was young, but her granddad told her, it is not something our family would do, especially if you’re a woman. That’s why a few months ago, when I was at the finale of a major Chinese talent competition, I had my mom singing with me. She had the opportunity to sing in front of the whole Chinese population. It was a dream-come-true moment and she was very happy that she could perform, and more importantly, she shared the moment with her son. I am proud to say that I want to become a singer.

I think the main reason for taking part in the photoshoot is that I want to step out of my comfort zone, speak about myself and my community, and be proud of who I am. I’ve always been taught to be passive, not to stand up for yourself, because there’s a saying in Chinese: 「枪打出头鸟 (simplified Chinese) /槍打出頭鳥 (traditional Chinese)」which translates to the shot hits the bird that pokes its head out. I’ve always been taught that if you fly high, if you become the first person to fly, you always get shot. So, don’t step on others’ toes and upset them; don’t express your opinions and don’t take sides, especially regarding politics and sensitive topics, just remain in the middle and that won’t harm you, even if you don’t agree with them, let them just go past like the wind. That way, nobody will argue with you, nobody will dislike you, and you won’t get into any trouble. I guess that’s why I have never made any public statements, participated in any social movements or campaigns. If I don’t offend others, they won’t dislike and harm me.

Even though I have experienced all sorts of systematic racism growing up because of who I am and how I look, I just pretended that nothing happened as it didn’t really affect me. But I was obviously affected, I started to act in ways that others would more likely to accept me, I tried to hide my Asian ethnicity and hide who I am just to fit in. I am very ashamed of that behaviour and till this day, I’ve never really spoken about it to anybody.

Photo by Vanessa Ng

This ‘stay quiet’ and ‘stay in the middle’ social strategy has worked out pretty well growing up, I was never attacked by anyone. But up until the year of the pandemic, the amount of hatred and racism comments that I’ve received in the past one year have been tremendously significant. I literally got spat on my face when I was quarantined in the Netherlands. I burst into tears standing on the streets on my own, with strangers watching and laughing at me, no one helped me, no one did anything.

Given this incident, I still decided to keep it to myself, I have not told anybody about what happened, because I don’t want to step on others’ toes, and also because that was the single most humiliating thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life; being spat on my face and called, “Chinese virus” out on the street in public. It was disgusting. It was humiliating. It was dehumanising. I was furious. I hated it myself that I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t even go after them. I just walked off and wiped my face. I was panicking. I had to go. I went to a supermarket and asked people for tissues because I didn’t want to touch my face. I really wanted to wash my face with sanitizer. But I guess, no matter how hard you wipe the stain will be on your face and in your heart forever.

That happened about a year ago, but to this day, I still remember how I felt. I felt the fire. I felt my hair standing up. My skin was itching and my skull was itching. I just wanted to dig a hole in the ground and just hide myself. If I could turn back in time, I would really shout. I would stand in the crowd and point to the spit on my face, and show people how messed up it is. Hiding away doesn’t do anything. I don’t want anyone else to go through the same pain that I went through. I didn’t even make a fuss about it anywhere. I didn’t tell anybody, and this is the first time I’m sharing with a big platform.

I guess the overall message that I want to share with everyone through the amazing Asians in Britain platform is that: be proud of who you are, don’t be afraid of going after what you love. Stop being overly polite and harmonious, speak for yourself and stand up for yourself. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you are from, because of the way you look, you may be discriminated against. You could be spat at in your face. That could be you. We should get together and use our voices, use our strength to fight for ourselves. I am proud of my ethnicity, my background, my passion and my dream. I’m not ashamed of being me.


Instagram: @justinpeng_


Producers: @chrispoonmd & @stephfungal
Photographer: @vng2_
Assistant photographer: @jordancoxtv
Makeup artists: @nanayumua & @lecreaturedibeatrice
Stylist: @asaleem92
Videographer: @rayroberts

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