The only Chinese-speaking councillor at Richmond City Hall says that no one person can claim to represent the Chinese community.
Coun. Chak Au was speaking to the Richmond News in the wake of a slew of municipal and school board candidates for the October election saying the Chinese community needs a voice at city hall.
Some candidates have expressed their intention to “represent the Chinese population” in Richmond, such as school board trustee candidate Ivan Pak who hopes to “give Chinese parents a voice.”
And mayoral candidate Hong Guo’s campaign video describes Chinese residents in Richmond as people whose “voice is ignored” and whose “rights are obliterated.”
Her video claims, “Only Chinese people can understand what Chinese people want...Today, Richmond politics has finally heard a Chinese voice, Hong Guo.”
Also, in March, Guo gave a speech asking people in the Chinese community “to vote for Chinese candidates to speak on our behalf."
However, Au said it’s important to have politicians with a diverse background to reflect more voices from the community, but he believes nobody can say he or she represents one ethnicity as a whole.
“There is no single group of Chinese people and we have more than one voice in the Chinese community,” said Au.
“I think nobody can claim he or she represents the Chinese population.
“I think what we can do is to bring different wills and some of the voices from the Chinese community to the table, to reflect those concerns and have discussions.”
Au also tried to clear up being apparently quoted out of context recently in the Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper in Vancouver.
According to the Sing Tao article, Au said, “the Chinese population in Richmond has increased but their influence hasn’t increased much. People should consider how to make Richmond a Chinese city.”
However, Au later clarified that was “not what he meant” and that he “was taken out of context.”
“My idea is not to make Richmond a Chinese city, but instead to take advantage of the experience brought in by immigrants from China and other countries and to build Richmond into an international city.”
The Sing Tao Daily article was published after Au spoke at a book launch for Guo Ding’s new book, The Voice of A Chinese Canadian.
To reaffirm his point, Au said he has criticized what he called a “new Chinatown phenomenon,” which he described as people who come to Canada and isolate themselves from mainstream society.
“Most of the Chinese population here just live a so-called 'normal life;’ they have to work, pay a mortgage, raise a family, pay tax, like most other people in the community,” said Au.
“But there are a few people who are very vocal. For whatever reasons, they only want to connect with Chinese; they don’t want to break away from what’s familiar.”
“I think this is the group we should focus on; we should help them or encourage them to move beyond their comfort zone and to become integrated.”