Continuing with Nee Hao’s British Chinese Political Series, and as outlined in articles previously, the British Chinese population and politics have a strange relationship where so few of them are getting involved in political affairs or voting. However, we have also talked about the small but sure process that is being made by a few groups to engage with the Chinese. As well as the non-partisan British Chinese Project that encourages the population to vote and goes out to help many of them on election days, the Conservatives in particular have been seen taking the most action when it comes to reaching out to this ethnic group.
The Conservative Friends of the Chinese, which describes itself as “the bedrock to political, cultural and trade and investment relations between the United Kingdom and the British Chinese communities”, is the largest political organisation within the community and works closely with the Conservative Party to keep in with the beliefs they hold and champion the values and culture of the community. It is co-chaired by Lord Wei, the first British Chinese to be in the House of Lords, he actively speaks out for the British Chinese community in Parliament.
The CFoC is also run out of the Conservative Party Headquarters where Jackson Ng, its political director, works closely with his Conservative Party colleagues – a strong working relationship and understanding that the other Chinese groups with their affiliated British political parties lack.
The group organise regular events that includes talks, workshops, breakfasts, dinners and receptions with members of the Party where British Chinese supporters are able to attend. Their next event is a Christmas Drinks Reception taking place on 27 November in London with The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, The Rt. Hon Philip Hammond MP.
In the past 18 months, they have gone on a charm offensive to organise more than 15 meetings with high level Conservative politicians and it seems to be working – with more and more people, especially between the ages of 18-35 joining them as members.
Furthermore, the Conservative Party has just selected British Chinese Alan Mak (whose parents are both from China / Hong Kong), to stand as their Parliamentary Candidate in Havant – as it is a Conservative safe seat, Alan is very likely to be the first MP of British Chinese origin to be in the House of Commons.
Other sub-groups of the CFOC in the UK and abroad include the Conservative Parliamentary China Group formed with the support of William Hague, the Cities of London & Westminster Conservation Association (CLWCA)‘s Chinese group that is based in Chinatown, The Beijing and Shanghai Blue Clubs and the Surrey branch of Conservative Friends of the Chinese.
On top of a relationship formed by local Tory MPs, Peers and activists with the British Chinese community, PM David Cameron has also repeatedly voiced his support. Last year, Cameron boldly said he thinks British students should ditch French and German and learn Mandarin instead because of its importance as a global business language.
Over the past few years Cameron has helped further strengthen ties between the UK and PRC and earlier this year made a speech at a reception in Downing Street to celebrate Chinese New Year, where he gushed about his visit to China, the economic relationship between the two Superpowers, how he welcomed the vast number of students coming here to study and ended with complimenting the impact the Chinese diaspora has in the UK. “It’s really worth noting that when you look across all the different people who live in the UK, the Chinese in Britain are some of the most hardworking, some of the most educated, some of the most law abiding, some of the most solid citizens of our country,” he said.
While there may still be a lack of Chinese faces in the UK’s political arena, it is good to see at least one Party making a pro-active and meaningful effort to befriend the Chinese community and maintain its relationship with them. And though most of the groups are based in London, it would be nice to see them branching out further to the rest of the UK where pockets of British Chinese also reside, including Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, which have the three biggest populations behind the capital.