Being British Chinese
CFOC had a successful time at Conference again this year as our stand at Conference year attracted record numbers of visitors wanting to engage with us. However, we continued to field the recurring question and confusion about our origins and identity as there is a common mistaken assumption by many that all British Chinese hail from one country namely Mainland China and that we have only one identity. That is absolutely not the case. I have experienced this first hand too even though I am half Chinese and originate from Malaysia. Historically, the Chinese originally from China did travel widely as economic migrants to settle in all parts of the globe including the Far East, Australia, Canada, USA.
However, the Chinese in Britain today are in fact a very heterogeneous group, diverse in language, educational background, identities, wealth and physical attributes. There are predominantly 6 or 7 main sub-groups of the Chinese population in Britain today including global immigrants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, ethnic Chinese from South East Asia Commonwealth nations (e.g. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia) as well as second –generation British-born Chinese mainly descended from HK immigrants. The dominant common language is Mandarin followed by Cantonese.
The British Chinese I know, like me are fiercely proud Brits, regardless of our original country of origin.
CFOC successes to date
In 2013 when we set up CFOC, the BCC were vastly under-represented as there was not a single Chinese MP representing them and only 1 Chinese peer Lord Wei (Conservative), who was and still is today, the only Parliamentarian in the Upper House.
Through our work over the last 6 years, we now have our first-ever British Chinese MP in Alan Mak, who represents Havant and also 4 local politicians Cllrs Jackson Ng (Beaconsfield), Xingang Wang, Samantha Harvey, Wai Lee Ho and Alex Yip. But given the estimated one million British Chinese population in the UK today, we are still woefully short of adequate Parliamentary representation and so we have much more to do.
In the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, we also successfully fielded 9 Chinese Parliamentary candidates and also 10 candidates in the 2018 Local Elections, where 4 were selected as local councillors.
We are so thrilled that two of our very own have been selected as Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in London seats for the upcoming General Election, Johnny Luk and Xingang. We are very proud of them and very much hoping a few more from CFOC will also join them in being selected too in the coming weeks.
Bridging The gap
The Party should be a natural magnet for British Chinese, who are inherently Conservative, many identifying with our shared values of hard work, entrepreneurship, strong family, good education, self-reliance, and aspiration. Many through sheer hard graft and steely determination, also become hugely successful and make significant economic contributions to our coffers and also imbue huge cultural benefits to the UK.
Educationally, Chinese pupils do very well at school having the highest school attainment, topping the league tables of attaining 3 ‘A’ grades or higher at A level and 3 out of 5 entering university. China continues to be the biggest exporter of international students into UK, with 106,530 Chinese students enrolled at UK universities in 2017/18. By comparison, India is second with 19,750 students followed by USA with 18,885 students.
However, in reality, the figures don’t necessarily reflect that in our Party membership for several reasons including language, cultural and economic barriers, cultural insularity, scepticism and disengagement with the Party. Another contributory factor is because many British Chinese don’t necessarily identify with one another despite their common ancestry and culture, partly because they are culturally different as they tend to identify themselves with their countries of origin instead and they have differing views on politics. These factors contribute to disparity and their lack of team-working on common issues, often resulting in a lack of social cohesion as a united community. Our challenges includes managing the diversity of the BCC and finding better ways to promote social cohesion. Lack of role models in Westminster also continue to be a challenge.
Full steam ahead and making more breakthroughs in the BCC
The Party continues to be absolutely committed to greater inclusivity, diversity (gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability) and representation. CFOC, which I co-founded 6 years ago with the Party’s full support was created to help the Party accomplish this objective and also to revamp its visibility and engagement with the British Chinese communities (‘BCC’).
Today, we have grown our database to over 5,000 members and we continue to strongly champion more British Chinese diversity in Parliament and our Party, during this extraordinary period of change for our country, government and Party. our superb team of five Chinese board members and two volunteer Chinese co-Directors, Johnny Luk and Leona Leung, we will continue to be a powerhouse for the BCC, and make further in-roads into getting more British Chinese engaging with the Party. To this end, our main urgent priorities include:
a. Filling the pipeline with talented British Chinese candidates through more creative ways of engagement.
Many British Chinese have not considered engaging with the Party through lack of awareness and also not believing the Party is very much in line with their Conservative values. We will explore more ways to talent-spotting, engage, nurture and promote talented British Chinese into public facing and political roles using technology, targeted approaches, better messaging and making them more ‘Party-confident’, so that they have more agency in this area.
b. Create more CFOC branches outside London to maximise the Party’s visibility and ‘engagement-impact’
We set up the successful CFOC Manchester to expand and grow our networks in the North. We will continue to set up more CFOC branches outside London with strong BCC and hold more local community engagement events to grow and maintain on-going relationships with positive Conservative messages, listen to their concerns and address them with the right help from politicians
c. Expand our dynamic Conservative ‘family’ volunteer network
We are proud of our strong and dynamic team of young and proactive grass roots volunteers who have been a tremendous campaigning force on foot country-wide and in call centres supporting local, mayoral, and national elections. We will host more social and networking activities to bring more volunteers into the Conservative ‘family’.
d. Vital preparatory groundwork for the next General Election in target seats with significant British Chinese populations is crucial. There are currently ten seats in the Greater London area that fall into target seats with significant British Chinese populations, and possibly seats in Manchester and Birmingham too. We will be aiming to support these seats in full force at the next GE.
Looking further afield, we will need to look East to explore many trade and commercial opportunities. We will need Parliamentarians to be alert, creative, agile, responsive and adaptable in a vastly competitive world. To this end, having more Chinese representatives in both Houses, who can purposefully harness and leverage their practical language skills, cultural knowledge and understanding of international business expertise and etiquette to build and grow important international friendships can only be a huge asset. If we have the right talented and diverse people in place, the results will be transformational for our country. We are working hard to deliver this vital need and outcome for us all.