The Hong Kong Chinese CommunityThe Hong Kong Chinese community is an affluent, educated, and swellingpopulation in the Greater Toronto Area.
The enigma is why they have only mademarginal inroads into the political arena.Olivia Chow, a Metro councilor representing the Downtown ward says “thiscommunity has potential to be very powerful…it’s nowhere near its potential.
“Chow is the highest-profile Hong Kong expatriate to win elected office in theGTA. Others include Tam Goosen, Soo Wong, Carrie Cheng, and Peter Lam.Many are convinced that the reason is because Hong Kong “is a colonialplace where they had no say in government whatsoever.” “In Hong Kong, there’snever been any democratic procedure until a few years ago.” “Chinese culturethrough thousands of years has never had an elected-representative type ofWestern democracy system.
So it’s not a surprise…(Hong Kong) is not a placewhere people exercise their democratic rights.” There is a very common beliefthat you should not offend or challenge authority.People have lost a lot of confidence in politicians because of poorexamples provided by ongoing tensions between Communist China and nationalistTaiwan.
“We have to educate them and tell them politics in North America andCanada is very different from what they saw of politics in Hong Kong and China.”Dr. Joseph Wong, whose community activism has earned him the Order ofCanada, thinks that despite changes in Chinese attitudes, fear is still anobstacle towards political evolution. People are not afraid to demand for equalrights but the so-called mainstream politics and elected office is stillbaffling to the Chinese. The Chinese community’s history in Canada also plays amajor role in its reluctance to venture into politics. Following the completionof the Canadian Pacific Railway, the federal government imposed a heavy head taxon new Chinese immigrants.
Only from the late 1960s and early 1970s, theTrudeau government liberalization of immigration that Chinese people came toCanada from Hong Kong. In 1979 , he organized a demonstration to urge thefederal government to admit more “boat people” – community members were appalled.”Don’t rock the boat” was exactly what they said. They said that Canada hadgiven them a shelter and they should not demand any rights.
Later that year, W5 – a CTV public affairs program – aired a segmentcalled Campus Giveaway, which was about Chinese students taking over Canadianuniversities and leaving Canadian students out in the cold. Within 2 to 3months, there were 16 anti-W5 committees. The protest eventually forced W5 tooffer an unqualified apology. Those 16 groups went on to form the ChineseCanadian National Council. “We learned the Canadian way of handling injustice.
“Richard Ling, a lawyer, disagrees with Wong’s assertion that thecommunity lacks the confidence to flex its political muscles. “I don’t thinkthe problem comes from lack of confidence or lack of sophistication because…alot of the people who came from Hong Kong came from reasonably successfulbackgrounds.” Ling says that it’s the parties themselves that are holding backthe community from playing a meaningful role in politics. Ling says thatanother major barrier is the tendency for those in power to choose a communityrepresentative who becomes “their eyes, ears and mouthpiece for the governmentat any level.
“When Ling organized a fundraising event for the Liberal Leader LynMcLeod, he planed to had over a cheque for $250,000 to McLeod. When they didnot promise her attendance, Ling canceled it and id it for Mike Harris instead.”I’m trying to get some assess into the government.
If you want to deny meaccess then I’ll get somebody else to listen to me.””To read in the newspaper that Lyn McLeod or the liberal party felt partof the reason they lost is because the ethnic communities could not support afemale leader, to me, it’s pouring salt on insult,” Ling says. Now he hasswitched his loyalties, including financial support, to the Harris government.Dr. Alan Li, says the Hong Kong community faces several barriers tobecoming a political force. And, he says, while Hong Kong immigrants are viewedas wealthy, starting a new life in Canada is a real challenge for many of them.