11 Chinese origin candidates taking part in UK election

11 Chinese origin candidates taking part in UK election
Chinatown in London. The increased number of Chinese candidates reflects a change in the attitude toward politics among young Chinese in the UK.

A record number of candidates with Chinese origins are taking part in Thursday's general election in the United Kingdom.

Eleven ethnic Chinese candidates, including two women, are running, and analysts say the increased number reflects a change in the attitude toward politics among young Chinese in the UK.

"Most of our Chinese candidates are of a similar age, they are a generation of British Chinese who have grown up understanding the UK political system and wanting to make a difference," said Michael Wilkes, vice-chairman of the British Chinese Project.

The project is a nonpartisan, voluntary organisation seeking to raise the presence of the Chinese community in the British political arena.

"I believe this is the beginning of the British Chinese breaking that political glass ceiling, and in the next 10 or 20 years nobody will be able to call the British Chinese 'silent' or 'invisible' anymore," Wilkes added.

The Conservatives have five ethnic Chinese candidates - Alan Mak, Jackson Ng, Mark Lim and mainland migrants Edward Yi He and Wang Xingang.

The Liberal Democrats are fielding three ethnic Chinese candidates - Steven Cheung, Philip Ling and Alexander Payton. The Green Party has one, James Chan, and Labour two, Sarah Owen and Rebecca Blake.

There were seven ethnic Chinese candidates at the last general election in 2010, and none won a seat in the House of Commons.

With the rapid growth in the number of skilled immigrants and students from China settling in Britain, there has been a political awakening and a growing desire to have their voices heard, according to experts.

"For a long time, the Chinese community has stayed outside the political process in the UK," said Joseph Wu, a member of the British Chinese Project. "Few Chinese candidates have stood in elections. But in the last five years we have seen the Chinese becoming engaged in a wide range of political events and making use of the British political process to voice their concerns.

"With the increased Chinese investment in the UK and Europe, parties increasingly recognise the need to engage the British Chinese community."

He said he hoped the 11 candidates will inspire more Chinese to become involved in politics.

The British Chinese Project, working with another organisation that pushes for increased involvement in British politics, arranged a campaign bus tour promoting voter registration in the run-up to the election. The initiative helped to make the community more visible to the country's political parties.

"We need to vote and make Chinese voices heard by the government," said Christine Lee, founder and chairwoman of the British Chinese Project.

Anna Manwah Lo, a Hong Kong-born politician who won a Northern Ireland Assembly seat in 2007, was the first East Asian to be elected to a legislative body in the UK. Lord Wei, a Conservative peer and chairman of Conservative Friends of the Chinese, sits in the House of Lords, Britain's unelected upper chamber.


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