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Pai undercover: another chilling revelation

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Invisible, Angry White People, Chinese Whispers, Hsiao-Hung Pai, booksExposing lives lived at odds with the idea of a modern Britain in the twenty-first century.

Hsiao-Hung Pai‘s third book, ‘Invisible: Britain’s Migrant Sex Workers’, published in 2013, focused on the story of two migrant sex workers in the United Kingdom.

Pai worked undercover as a maid in brothels in Burnley, Lancashire, Bedford, and Finchley and Stratford in London, as part of her research for Invisible.

And she wrote about Ming and Beata.

They do not speak the same language nor the share the same cultural background, yet their stories are remarkably similar.

Both were single mothers in their thirties and both came to Britain in search of a new life: Ming from China and Beata from Poland.

Neither imagined that their journey would end in a British brothel.

In her chilling exposé, Pai unveils the terrible reality of the British sex trade, where workers are trapped and controlled.

Pai was previously best known for her book ‘Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour‘ which was short-listed for the 2009 Orwell Prize.

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Chinese immigrants in Britain travelled here to get away from desperate poverty, and since they are undocumented, they have to keep their heads down – and they work themselves to the bone.

Pai went undercover to write this book too, in order to hear the stories of this hidden workforce, and revealed a scary, shadowy world where human beings are exploited in ways largely unimaginable.

The shocking lack of freedoms these almost invisible stratas of society suffer is both shocking and scandalous and at odds with the idea of a modern Britain in the twenty-first century.

And for ‘Scattered Sand: The Story of China’s Rural Migrants‘, which won her the Bread and Roses Award in 2013, she travelled across China to uncover the exploitation of workers at locations as diverse as Olympic construction sites and brick kilns in the Yellow River region, the factories of the Pearl River Delta and the suicide-ridden Foxconn complex.

To write the book published as ‘Angry White People: Coming Face-to-face with the British Far Right’, Pai,  an ‘inscrutable foreigner’, followed a group of individuals who got caught up in the wave of far right street movements that began in 2009.

For remarks like ‘They’ve taken over our culture and our way of life’, ‘Britain for whites only’, ‘Islam is Britain’s biggest problem’, shocking as they are, are not strange words in Britain today, and the irate faces of far right street mobs are currently not strangers to our screens.

Among those Pai followed are Darren, who took part in the formation of the English Defence League (EDL) but who left it after two years of activism; a Reading-based activist nicknamed Viking, who once occupied the cathedral in Derby in order to assert his right to carry a sword, and Tommy Robinson, founder of the EDL, who Pai saw ‘change from a young, foul-mouthed Luton lad to a suited and booted Oxford Union guest speaker’.

Delving deep into the day-to-day of the most marginalised section of the white working-class, Pai uncovered that their ideologies are not an aberration in modern British society.

On the contrary, not only are they very much a part of it, but they are constantly reproduced, rejuvenated and mainstreamed by the media and the powers that be. While the other people she has written about are – still – totally ignored.

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