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Why so few British Chinese in Public Life?

As I rode on the tube to participate in a discussion on Chinese life in Britain at UCL I reflected on my own journey. My parents arrived in London from Hong Kong in 1970 with a suitcase and dreams of a better life. I’ve met few people who work as hard as they did, for them work wasn’t a pleasantry it was a matter of survival. Putting bread on the table day in day out. They barely slept working seven days a week any spare time was spent caring for the elders and the children.


When I speak with some of our people in Brent it reminds me of my parents story, making ends meet, worrying, endless worrying about feeding the family, our basic living conditions and being judged. This is what people really fear, being judged by others, being looked down upon. That’s why even though we had nothing my mum always made sure that I looked semi-presentable before going out, ‘you’re representing us’ she would say.

As I arrived at Euston Square I thought to myself who’s representing us in Britain? Why are there so few British Chinese in public life? I asked that very question to the audience and everyone pointed to David Yip the infamous ‘Chinese Detective’ I responded with, ‘apart from you David!’ In a modern Britain where I truly believe in a progressive society where all are judged on merit and decency it is a question that we struggle still to answer.

Chinese culture is rooted in deep tradition based on an ancient civilization spanning 3,000 plus years with a unique language, formalities and customs. The Chinese philosophy of Ying and Yang is one of harmony, order and balance in life. Who would want the conflict, stress and scrutiny that come with public attention? London is a place where cultures collide with amazing success, in a modern society we adopt the things we like and ignore the things we don’t, we are free to choose. I’m very proud to be British, Chinese and a Londoner my social DNA is a blend of all the above and more, some people call it character, I call it being yourself.

Chinese people still do not feel a part of British society, if we want inclusion, respect and representation we have to participate and let the people decide. Our parents have given us the opportunity to live in the greatest country and cities on earth, let’s make them heard, we have nothing to fear except fear itself.

Audio starts at 19:25 mins & 53:05 mins

Vincent Lo is Vice Chair of Chinese for Labour and Chair of Brent North CLP. If you have an idea for an article and wish to contribute to Chinese for Labour then please send an email to [email protected]

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