By Grace Lee – Nee Hao Political Editor
From easing the Brexit process to strengthening our relationship with the EU and the world; coming up with solutions to tackle the housing crisis and reducing homelessness; dealing with inflation and stopping the income inequality from growing; strengthening the NHS and working out the best social care for the elderly; pressing national security issues and revising immigration policies; reducing hate crime against minority groups and promoting diversity – these are just some of the many issues which need to be considered when we cast our votes.
But for us British-Chinese voters, we ought to consider what each party can do for our community.
I believe choosing the Labour Party would benefit the British-Chinese community on the whole. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he respects and recognises the great contribution the British-Chinese community has made over many years. It is clear that the Labour Party hopes to convince British voters that they are here to stand for everyone from every level of society, bringing back fairness, equality and balance.
For the past seven years, the current Conservative government has been slowly adopting far right policies and far right sentiments in order to tempt UKIP voters. This has resulted in a more divisive political atmosphere in the UK, with rising hate crime against minority groups, including ours. On page 28 of the Labour manifesto, the party seeks to be more reasonable when cutting down net immigration, proposing to exclude students from this count. Labour believes students bring benefits to the country, not least a significant contribution to the UK economy. Overall, they believe diversity is very much needed for the country to progress.
This article reviews some of the key points made in the Labour Party’s manifesto and considers how it might benefit the Chinese community.
Protecting the Chinese community from hate crime
“The Labour Party is the party of equality and seeks to build a society and world free from all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia…Devastating cuts to the Equality and Human Rights Commission by the Conservatives reveal their real attitude, beyond the rhetoric, to issues of equality and discrimination. These cuts have been made amid the rise in hate crime recorded by the police in the last year…(page 108)”
Harassment and attacks against the Chinese community or Chinese businesses are increasing, and fear has begun to permeate our community. If you vote for Labour, you will be supporting their stance on ethnic minorities. Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equality Act, the Minimum Wage are all legislation delivered by Labour. Under the Conservatives, cuts to public services and social security are expected, disproportionately effecting women and ethnic minorities. Labour’s manifesto emphasises the importance of having diversity in this country; and it recognises the contribution communities such as the Chinese have made. Hate crime is unacceptable and shouldn’t be used against us. Labour vows to tackle racism head on to reduce hate crime and by putting more police on the streets.
Protecting the rights of Overseas Chinese students
Immigration (including EU and worldwide migration, border controls and rules on work and benefits) is another policy that will be a key debate in this General Election and one that may be of concern to the British-Chinese community. By supporting the Conservative’s inclusion of the Overseas Chinese and East Asian students in the net migration figure, you risk impeding friends or relatives in Asia who wish to pursue a degree in the UK. If elected again, the Conservatives will reduce net migration to tens of thousands, double the Immigration Skills Charge on companies employing migrant workers and toughen the requirements for student visas and rules allowing them to stay and work.
An Overseas Chinese and East Asian student is already required to pay two or three times more tuition fees compared to a British student, but with Conservatives in power, a further increase in tuition fees is to be expected. The Tory government also expect students to leave the country at the end of their course unless they manage to convert their student visa to a working visa, which again, will be made tougher. This will prevent Britain from retaining the best and the brightest talents from all over the world. The Labour Party on the other hand proposes a fairer and more reasonable management of migration through Brexit and beyond.
Labour welcomes international students who benefit and strengthen our education sector, generating more than £25 billion for the British economy and significantly boosting regional jobs and local businesses. They are not permanent residents and we will not include them in immigration numbers, but we will crack down on fake colleges. (page 29)
Labour will give more rights to Chinese and East Asian students, such as reversing the stance on post study work visas and acknowledging the contributions the students make. They recognise potential benefits for retaining international talent and intend to take students out of immigration numbers. Of those Overseas Chinese and East Asian students who come to the UK to study, majority of these would naturally come from a middle to high-income group, therefore they are more willing to spend money on food, fashion, travel and more; spending which benefits the UK economy. Students too work part-time in retail or in restaurants (areas which are short on staff). Some even work as volunteers in community centres. Chinese small businesses also see a boost in sales when more Overseas Chinese and East Asian students are studying in the UK. Labour believes in the long-term benefits of having and retaining the brightest international students.
Protecting Chinese community centres around the country
The recent high profile funding cut of the Westminster Chinese Library, which holds the largest Chinese collection of Chinese books in the UK and is managed by a Chinese-speaking Chinese Community library, is a major blow to our community – affecting jobs, and our access and service to this public collection. However, this isn’t the only community centre which faces cuts and closure. Chinese community centres in Leicester and Oxford face closure due to funding cuts. If elected, Jeremy Corbyn will speak with and work with Chinese community leaders to address these issues and help maintain these Chinese community centres.
Protecting the right to bring your spouse to the UK
The stance on immigration is another key concern among the general public and our community in this General Election. If voted in power again, the Conservatives vows cut down net immigration figure and raise the proof of income for a British citizen to bring a non-British spouse and children over. So if you intend to bring a spouse over form Hong Kong or China, you may be in for a tough time.
According to an article from The Independent, thousands of foreign spouses have already been barred entry to UK with the increased income limit put in place. There are up to 15000 children growing up as “Skype kids” with their British parent. The Tory government will hike the minimum income requirement of £18600 again, if voted into power this General Election. This threshold is said to exclude 41% of the British working population from bringing in a foreign spouse. The threshold is also a lot higher if you want to bring over your non-EU children. Although this is set to increase, the manifesto does not set out a new minimum amount. Like the capping on social care, it is not to be revealed until after the election.
Although this area does need to be revised to prevent bogus marriages, “the Labour party claims that it will develop and implement fair immigration rules. We will not discriminate between people of different races or creeds. We will end indefinite detentions and distinguish between migrant labour and family attachment and will continue to support the work of the Forced Marriage Unit” (page 28)
Protecting the right for your elderly parents to use the NHS
In the aftermath of war and national bankruptcy, it was a Labour government that found the resources to create a National Health Service – our proudest achievement, providing universal healthcare for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use. (page 64)
Every British-Chinese knows that “filial piety” (respect for one’s parents) has been an integral part of and has been practised in Chinese culture. It is a highly valued Confucian value that believes in devotion, obedience, respect and care towards one’s parents. By giving them the best medical care possible, would be one of many ways to show our gratitude. Our parents will increasingly need to use the NHS but by voting the Conservatives to be in power, much of this service will be cut as part of their austerity programme.
Under the Tories, the NHS and social care have been pushed into a worrying state. We increasingly get put under long waiting lists and slower A&E services. Recently, Theresa May has been criticised for the announcement of her social care policy in which she wants the cost of care to be capped. Even her own home secretary, Amber Rudd said the party was not sure about the maximum amount people should contribute towards their care cost and this will only be considered after the election. Theresa May not only refuses to reveal the cap, she is accused of being indecisive after announcing a U-turn on her plans to make people pay for social care days after they were first announced.
We want the best for our parents or grandparents who have worked tooth-and-nail to put food on the table. Many of these are first generation Chinese that came to the UK to build a better future for themselves and for the next generation. By voting for Conservatives, we are asking our parents to be subjected to a “dementia tax”. Our parents may have to pay for their care until the value of their assets including their property reached £100,000.
Labour asks for a publicly run, publicly financed and publicly employed NHS, not a privatised NHS.
Labour will invest in training nurses for the future. At this rate, the cuts in nursing bursary, coinciding with the increased price of university tuition for roles in healthcare will only deter hopeful nurses from applying to go into nursing. That means fewer nurses tending to patients and the long waiting list for medical treatment will continue.
Protecting your jobs
Today Black and Asian-owned businesses are an important and growing feature of our economy and society. These businesses are important not just because of their financial contribution; they have also helped transform particular sectors of the economy (page 112)
With growing job insecurities, fall in living standards and shrinking public services, many are struggling to make ends meet. The British-Chinese community has the highest entrepreneurial rates in the UK, with many working in the catering industry. The debate on whether self-employed workers should be subjected tax rise will surely be revisited if the Conservatives are in power again. The 2.5 million self-employed people in the UK certainly were in for a surprise when the suggested proposal contradicted the 2015 Tory manifesto on not raising VAT, national insurance contributions or income tax.
Self-employed people don’t enjoy the same protections and rights as a standard employee would. In the 2017 Labour’s manifesto (page 51), they also believe that self-employment… “can bring many benefits, freedoms and flexibilities to people – and is a vital and often entrepreneurial sector of our economy”. Labour can help with the shortage of, e.g. Chinese chefs by making fairer criteria. The Labour Party will guarantee no rise in VAT, National Insurance, Income Tax for everyone. Only the top 5% will be asked to contribute more tax to help fund public services. Also Labour will negotiate a softer Brexit, as a hard Brexit will make the price of Chinese ingredients more expensive as they are imported from Europe.
Many are also held back by lack of jobs, debt, cost of rent and falling real pay. Labour wants to increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour, which may be a cause of concern to small businesses but the overall effect may be positive in the long run. When people are able to earn more and support themselves, they will be more willing to spend, helping generate the stronger consumer economy that small businesses need.
Generally, the British-Chinese community are known for their high academic achievements and have one of the highest household incomes among demographic groups in the UK but not all Chinese are wealthy. Not every Overseas Chinese or East Asian can make use of the bolt-holes abroad, have over £2million and afford a Tier 1 investor visa, in contrary to what some people would think. Like all other lower income groups in the UK, the poorer British-Chinese face the same housing crisis. The average to middle income British-Chinese are being forced out of the big cities as much as everyone else in the same bracket. UK is becoming a country that is becoming more unequal.
Regardless of race, faith, or income, the Labour Party is the party for the Chinese. Their values align closest to ours. Based on Nee Hao’s analysis of comments from various forums, the British-Chinese are leaning towards Labour for this General Election unlike the 2015 election where there were more supporting the Conservative party. Please vote for Labour on June 8th if you wish to get better support from the government for yourself, your family and your community.
To download the Labour party’s manifesto, click here: www.labour.org.uk/manifesto