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Thank you Mr Ambassador. And thanks you for that truly incredible welcome. 

It’s an honour to be here amongst so many distinguished guests. 

Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with friends and family. It is also a time to reflect on the year that has just passed and look forward to the year to come. 

As we mark the start of the Year of the Monkey, it is also right that we celebrate the many contributions of London’s Chinese community, which continues to enrich the economic and cultural life of this great city – and that of many other cities across the UK. 

That’s why it is so important we continue to strengthen the friendship between the UK and China.  

We can do that by working to promote economic and trade links with China and East Asia. 

And by working with Chinese organisations and charities to promote understanding between our two nations and help bring communities together.

We don’t agree on everything – in fact, there is much we disagree on - but friends are allowed to disagree. 

We must continue to foster a harmonious relationship with the Chinese community in the UK.

That’s why it’s absolutely vital that we pursue a zero-tolerance approach to racist hate crimes, wherever and whenever they occur. I know this is something that the Chinese community in our country is concerned about. The Labour party will do all it can to ensure the police have the resources they need to tackle crimes of this nature. 

We also need to see more Chinese Parliamentarians in the Commons, Lords and our devolved assemblies – of every political hue. And the Labour Party is taking steps to address that as we reform our party. 

Finally, I want to make it clear this evening that I'm a passionate supporter of the Chinese community’s campaign for a memorial in London to the 95,000 members of the Chinese Labour Corps, whose contribution to the First World War has still not been properly recognised or commemorated.

The service they gave on the front lines in France and Belgium, and the suffering they endured, was immense. It must be formally recognised. It is wrong that, a century after the War ended, no memorial exists. Let’s resolve to do all we can to change that this year. 

Thank you once again for coming. It’s wonderful to be amongst friends on Chinese New Year.

Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Deputy Leader Tom Watson's speech at the Labour Party Chinese New Year Reception

Thank you Mr Ambassador. And thanks you for that truly incredible welcome.  It’s an honour to be here amongst so many distinguished guests.  Chinese New Year is a time to...

There was a game I would play with Beijing taxi drivers when asked where I was from. I gave one of three answers: America, the UK or Iran, to see how their reaction differed.

To the latter I received a thumbs up, and gesticulations of a nuclear bomb going off. “Boom kapow!” the driver would rejoin, in a curiously sympathetic onomatopoeia.

“English gentleman” was the response to saying I was British, followed by a conversation never not about fog.

To being American I received a longer more considered riposte, but ending without fail in the observation that China should be wary of its foe across the Pacific, and by association me.

Were I to hail a cab now, things might be a little different. Our Prime Minister’s recent red-carpet kowtow to China’s visiting President has, according to a recent survey, improved the UK’s standing with the average Chinese person. I wonder what Donald Trump might have done for America’s.

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Of the Chinese friends I asked on the matter of “Chuan Pu” (the Chinese nickname for Trump), the results were instructive. To those who spoke little to no English, Trump was an unheard of quantity. Telling, if unsurprising, given how tightly Chinese language media is controlled in the country. To those who did, and for whom outside media sources were more accessible, the results presented a rare pin hole into the complex and sometimes fragile psyche of Chinese nationalism.

“He is jealous of China stealing opportunities from Americans,” a friend argued. Another commented on how scared he felt by just how many Americans seemed to sympathise. “A big joke,” one declared, pausing before adding, “although he probably hates us”.

These comments are perhaps not misplaced. At the end of last year, the Republican favourite asserted that “China has gotten rich off us”. “They’re killing us,” he added, but not before proclaiming that the country would soon “be in trouble”.

Despite persistent reminders from Communist Party apparatchiks that China does not concern itself with the “internal affairs” of other countries, a seemingly credible President Trump will have pricked wily ears in Beijing.

Yes, for now, he is a bothersome curiosity for many in the country. Netizens on China’s Twitter – Weibo – did not take kindly to him calling their government out for a lax attitude to the North Koreans. The 2,522 fans of the “Chuan Pu” Weibo page, however, didn’t seem to mind. A few have quipped that Americans made history only seven years ago by voting in the country’s first black President; they may make it again by voting for its first orange one.

Yet minds far greater and guileful than ours in the Zhong Nan Hai (China’s Communist Party’s central HQ) will be watching Trump closely. For in him the perfect bogeyman presents itself.

To understand why, one must look to the Chinese classroom. Children’s textbooks point to a century of great shame at the hands of world powers. Successive governments have imbued three, perhaps four generations with a sense of victimhood: a bitterness held not just towards the Japanese and the British who occupied the country, but also to “imperialist” Americans who carved up the world for their own benefit. So the argument goes.

Current President Xi Jinping has shone a light on a new fork in the road of this narrative – China regaining its rightful place at the head of the world’s table. A reminder to all of the Chinese name of his country: “the Middle Kingdom”.

A bellicose, obdurate President Trump would provide more hawkish factions within the Party leadership with the opportunity to cool what has so far been a polite détente. The finger could be pointed more easily than against Obama. Why should China stop its land grab in the Pacific? Trump’s America engages in a combative foreign policy, it would be argued. How can America criticise China’s repression of indigenous Muslims in its restive Xinjiang province, when gun-toting Trump is “getting tough” on Muslims back home?

Trump’s belligerence now, and god forbid in power, might well suit the strategic designs China has on aggrandising its sphere of geographical influence. For there are fewer things the Communist Party loves more than a case study in what it regards as hypocrisy from foreign governments.

The Party knows all too well the visceral power of demarcating a foreign threat as a way of distracting its own citizens. I saw this personally in 2012 when Beijing’s police, in an unprecedented move, allowed public protests against Japan’s claim over a small set of islands in the South China Sea. Thousands took to the streets, throwing stones at Toyotas and a branch of Uniqlo, and forcing the closure of Japan’s embassy in the city. Many argued it was a calculated move to allow current President Xi to dispose quietly of his main political opponents and solidify his grip on power.

This now forgotten episode holds a chilling forewarning of the Party’s reaction to what is only now emerging as the slowest period of economic growth in 25 years. As China’s masters prepare for a hard landing, with painful readjustments to its economy in the pipeline, a foreign bogeyman is just what they need. And in Trump, they may have found the perfect candidate.

China doesn’t fear a Donald Trump presidency: It relishes the prospect

There was a game I would play with Beijing taxi drivers when asked where I was from. I gave one of three answers: America, the UK or Iran, to see...

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SONNY LEONG | CHINESE NEW YEAR SPEECH (Reception)

FEBURARY 2016
Thank you so much.

First of all, on behalf of Chinese for Labour, I want to say a very warm welcome and happy New Year!

Welcome to Jeremy Corbyn, H E Ambassador Liu, Tom Watson and everyone

Xin Nian Kuai Le.

It is good to see so many old friends here as well as some faces that will hopefully become new friends!

What our new friends don’t yet know is that I give one of these speeches every year.

Given that this is our New Year and a time of renewal, I often look at the year just gone and reflect on what’s happened.

So I sat down to write tonight’s speech and thought about the last year.

And then I got up and poured myself a drink!
Don’t worry – I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account.

I think just remembering how I felt on the 8th May – well, I’m not ready to cry in front of you tonight!

From all of our various perspectives, backgrounds and histories,

we have all been trying to figure out what everything means;
what the party will become in the next four years and most importantly whether we can win in 2020.

Tonight, I am going to keep it short – but I would like to share two observations about what I hope the party will do in the next months and years to give us a real shot at winning in 2020.

The first is that this party is built on the strength of its diversity –

of thought,
of background and of experience.

It is why I have always been so passionate about Chinese for Labour –

not just to give greater voice to people of Chinese origin in politics, but also to help the Labour party hear another perspective, gain another asset and become a richer, more diverse party.

Just as our diversity can be the strength of our party, I believe it is also the great strength of this country.

The Labour Party has always been the party of equality, of internationalism – of championing Britain’s status as a nation of immigrants – this we must never forget

The second point I would like to make tonight is that Labour has, tragically, taken the vote of ethnic minority people, like many of us, for granted.

And if we don’t act to correct that, we will pay a steep price – at the polls, in the make up of our party and in our leadership for generations to come.

The party hasn’t recognised that our approach to people from ethnic minority backgrounds has been backward looking – relying on past success and simplistic grouping

people of very different cultures together because it’s easier.

‘Asian’ comes to mean everything from Bangalore to Beijing. ‘Black’ comes to mean everything from Mombasa to Montego Bay.

In essence, Labour’s approach has failed to recognise three truths of today’s politics:

  • That people always look to their future
  • Voting does not simply and uncritically pass from one generation to the next
  • People, more than ever, want to achieve their individual hopes and dreams

People who are the second-, third-, and fourth-generation of families who have come here from across the world don’t simply vote on the basis of what Labour did in ‘60s and 70s, or even in government in the 21st Century.

They want to know that Labour is working to create a society in which their lives are more secure and they have a better chance of making their individual hopes come true.

We know what we need to do – but don’t worry I’m not going to go through every policy point tonight – I’m not a politician!

So in the next year – in the new politics – I ask you this as you take your action to help Labour win in the May elections and work towards 2020 - let’s live our values.

Let us listen to each other, to people of every background and understand what they need from and can contribute to this Labour Party and our shared society.

What can we make possible for the next generation if we live our values to champion, embrace and build diversity again?

That must be the new politics.


Thank you so much and have a good night. 

Chinese for Labour Chair Sonny Leong's speech at the Chinese New Year Reception

SONNY LEONG | CHINESE NEW YEAR SPEECH (Reception) FEBURARY 2016Thank you so much. First of all, on behalf of Chinese for Labour, I want to say a very warm welcome...

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