Anna Lo has made history in the Northern Ireland election by becoming the first Chinese person ever to win an assembly seat in the UK.

The former social worker was born in Hong Kong and has two children.

Her victory for the Alliance Party in the Belfast South constituency is being seen as a victory against racism in Northern Ireland.

Despite living in Belfast for 32 years, Ms Lo had to carry a personal panic alarm after receiving threatening telephone calls and hate mail during her campaign. She also says she has been kicked on the streets of Belfast in the past.

She won the third seat on the seventh count last night, upsetting loyalist incumbent Esmond Birnie of the Ulster Unionist Party. 

'Chinese people waited for up to 40 years before they felt comfortable enough to vote, simply because they could never identify with anybody,' Ms Lo said last night.

'This time they came out in their droves to support me because it gave them a sense of belonging here, that they have a stake in the community and that their contribution is being recognised. They know someone will now be responding to their voice.'

Her constituency, which includes the up-market Malone as well as the working class Catholic lower Ormeau and Protestant Donegall Road districts, is said to be by far the worst for racial attacks.

She is the first Chinese candidate to be elected to any assembly in the UK.

After receiving 12.6% of the first preference votes, Ms Lo went on to get transfer votes from loyalist, unionist and independent candidates.

'It reflects how much progress we have made in Northern Ireland, preferring this to tribal politics,' Ms Lo added. 

'We have been branded the most bigoted and racial community in Europe, but this presents a more positive image and maybe we are not as bigoted and as racist as some people think. We have embraced diversity in a way that was never achieved before.'

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey, a former Belfast Lord Mayor, said the vote for Ms Lo would be good for politics.

'It's good to see people exercising their franchise in this way. The democratic process is all the more healthy for it and it raises a challenge for all the parties,' Mr Maskey said.