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Chinese residents fight for representation in Richmond politics

Almost two dozen Chinese candidates participated in the Saturday election

By Qian Bao , in City , on October 25, 2018

Richmond City Hall
Richmond City Hall

Richmond saw more of its Chinese residents participating in municipal politics than ever before in the lead-up to the civic election last Saturday night, a change from the approach that most have taken in the past.

Although the Saturday election resulted in very few Chinese candidates being elected, it wasn’t because of a lack of enthusiasm from local voters.

Chinese residents took their political opinions to the street by campaigning with political groups such as Richmond First and Richmond Community Coalition.

Election “failed” in Chinese representation

Many were unhappy with the outcomes, which did not result in any new representation for the Chinese community that accounts for almost half of Richmond’s population.

“It’s very disappointing,” said someone identified in a WeChat post only as Jianguo. “We are once again misrepresented in the local politics. They [policy makers] will keep bully us unless we make our voice heard.”

Almost two dozen Chinese candidates had participated in the Saturday election. They included three mayor candidates, 10 councillor candidates, and nine school-trustee candidates. Some of them, such as Chak Au and Alice Wong, have served as city councillor and school trustees respectively. Others, such as Sunny Ho and Melissa Zhang, came from the private sector without political background.

Homeless shelter, sex-orientation policy angered residents

The heavy participation in the election is a sign of political struggle in the Chinese community, say some observers.

“So many Chinese have thought that my vote won’t make a difference, but right now Richmond is 52-per-cent Chinese, maybe higher,” said Greg Gerrie, a campaigner and coach for Hong Guo, the leading Chinese candidate for mayor. Gerrie is the founder of KidTalks Canada, a program dedicated to training the next generation of leaders.

Gerrie said that the past council passed resolutions on a homeless shelter and sexual-orientation education without further consultation with the Chinese residents.

Some Chinese parents saw the school policy, known as SOGI for sexual orientation and gender identity, as a “poison” into the minds mind of their children. The policy has been controversial in many school districts, although the vast majority of voters in the Oct. 21 election did not support anti-SOGI candidates, either in Richmond or elsewhere.

Poster outside Guo Law Corporation on No. 3 Road in Richmond
Poster outside Guo Law Corporation on No. 3 Road in Richmond

The leading mayoral contender said that many Chinese residents of Richmond are concerned about what they see as a loss of democracy, as she did.

“When I first arrived in Canada 25 years ago, it was with a sense of excitement to experience a mature democratic country,” said Guo, a sometimes controversial Chinese-Canadian lawyer,who lost the election after gaining only 2,940 votes compared to current mayor Malcolm Brodie, re-elected with 30,452 votes. “But in recent years, I have been forced to witness increasingly unacceptable social issues. I can no longer stay on the sidelines and pretend to accept the status quo.”

Resistance faced during campaign

Guo’s campaign faced more negative media attention than anyone else’s, in part because of a lawsuit against her by two Chinese investors, as well as investigation of her by the Law Society of B.C. over missing funds from her firm’s trust account.

As well, her name, along with others, was linked to stories about vote-buying in the Richmond News and The Star.

RCMP later stated they found no evidence of a vote-buying scheme, and that an apparent WeChat screenshot of a vote-buying post was forged.

Gerrie firmly defended Guo.

“The media are vicious against her. They are not telling the truth. This is exactly the same situation with Donald Trump. Media is supposed to bring the truth by getting unedited information from one end to another.”