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Businessman hosts meeting to bridge Richmond's language gap

Peter Liu says city hall needs to do more to hear concerns from the Chinese-speaking community
Peter Liu
Peter Liu, who runs an investment business and ran unsuccessfully in the 2014 school board election, aims to ensure that Chinese-speaking residents are heard by local politicians — and vice-versa.

A local businessman will this week host what he hopes will be the first of a series of meetings to bridge the language barrier between the Chinese community and city council.

Peter Liu — who ran unsuccessfully in the 2014 school board election — will, on Friday, emcee at a Chinese restaurant an informal question and answer session with Coun. Bill McNulty.

There are simply too many people in the Chinese community who don’t speak English and are not able to express their concerns to city hall and/or city council, said Liu, who will translate the questions.

It’s incumbent upon city council and officials to communicate in a language the growing Chinese-speaking community understands, he added.

“There is a lot of concern about different things in the community; its safety, the signage, many things,” said Liu, who was born in Tianjin, China before immigrating to Canada and Richmond in 2002 with his wife and daughter, where he heads an investment company.

“A lot of the citizens in the community do not speak good English and I want to bridge that communication gap between the officials and the people.

“I want the citizens to be able to ask questions of city hall and express their concerns.

“At city hall, all the meetings are held only in English, and I want to help people bring their issues to the local government.”

It’s too much to expect new immigrants from China to wait four of five years to learn English before they can start to actively engage with city council and local politics, added Liu, who ran in the school board election under the Richmond First banner.

Liu said he hopes McNulty will be the first in a long line of guests — he says 50 people have registered for Friday — and different members of city council, perhaps even Mayor Malcolm Brodie, will agree to participate every two weeks.

Despite the idea being to bridge the language barrier, Liu has advertised in English-speaking media and says the meeting is open to anyone.

The theme this week, he says, is community safety, claiming, “break-ins in certain parts of the city are going up.

“I’m part of Block Watch in the No. 3 and Williams roads areas and people in the Chinese community are worried about (the rising crime),” he said.

The format, said McNulty, is nothing new, adding that he’s attended many events like it during his long career in local politics in Richmond.

“I’m happy to support any positive interaction in the community and no concern is too small,” said McNulty.

“People’s concerns, across the community, are very similar; everybody has the same wants and needs, they may be framed in a different manner.”

Before the 2014 school board election, Liu told local Chinese media site lahoo.com: “Elections are about choosing someone who represents you in mainstream politics. Our voice must be heard as a whole, as we have more and more Chinese living here. We cannot afford to be the silent majority again.”

Liu garnered almost 10,000 votes in the 2014 election.

After the election, he told supporters, "There will be 10,000 Chinese moving into Richmond every year in the next 10 years…There will be more people getting citizenship in the next four years in the city of Richmond. I am confident that Chinese mainland-born Chinese Canadians will be elected some day in the future in this city.”

Friday’s “Concerns About Community Safety” meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 26 at the China House Seafood Restaurant at 8300 Capstan Way.

Anyone wishing to attend should register online at PeterLiuRichmond.com.

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