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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 7:52am
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Growing hostility to foreigners drives Hong Kong-born Anna Lo out of Northern Ireland politics

Hostility to foreigners behind why she's quitting Northern Ireland politics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 3:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 11:29am

A Hong Kong-born woman who became Britain's first ethnic Chinese parliamentarian says her decision to quit politics - and possibly her adopted home - reflects a growing hostility to foreigners and the rise of far-right politics across Europe.

Northern Ireland politician Anna Lo Man-wah announced last week that she would not seek re-election for the Belfast South seat she has held for the moderate Alliance Party for eight years.

In an interview with the Sunday Morning Post, she said her decision stemmed from the inability of people in her adopted homeland to shake off sectarian hatred and a growing sense of insularity and anti-foreigner sentiment across Europe, reflected in recent European election results.

Lo, 63, went to Shau Kei Wan East Government Secondary School and left the city to start a new life in Northern Ireland in 1974 - at the height of what became known as "The Troubles".

She said of certain sections of the community she represents: "They're scaremongering the British people, telling them that immigrants are taking people's jobs, that they take benefits and are not contributing."

Lo said a rise in racism, with two racially motivated incidents reported in Northern Ireland each day, had left her feeling vulnerable, despite having lived through some of the province's worst sectarian violence.

The three-decade conflict saw more than 3,500 people killed and more than 50,000 injured in a bitter battle between the pro-British, predominantly Protestant loyalist community and the predominantly Catholic minority who favoured reunification with the rest of Ireland.

While the 1998 peace accord committed both sides to "the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community", an upsurge in sectarian violence appeared to have found a new target - immigrants.

It is a trend Lo believes has its roots in the wave of intolerance "all over the UK and Europe, towards immigrants, immigration and towards Islam".

Comments by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson of the majority Democratic Unionist Party, a loyalist party, in support of a pastor who called Islam a "doctrine spawned from hell" were particularly distressing, Lo said. She believed they could be used to justify more violence.

Despite being showered with flowers, e-mails and text messages, and seeing a Facebook page attract more than 16,000 supporters urging her to stay on, Lo is adamant it is time to leave politics following threats from a loyalist mob as she helped her party campaign during last month's European and local elections.

When the European results came in, the United Kingdom Independence Party had won the biggest share of the vote. The right-wing party takes an anti-immigration stance and looks to increase border controls within the European Union.

Lo said: "My sons are concerned about the threats against me and want me to go to England, but I love it here. This is my home." But she added: "I don't feel things are getting better. It's just bickering all the time. I'm disillusioned with the current state of politics, which is still mired in the past. It's tribal politics, us-and-them politics, not politics for all in Ireland."

Lo expressed frustration that a racial equality strategy in the works for seven years had yet to be approved.

The Chinese community has been the largest ethnic minority in Northern Ireland since the early 1970s, when none of the fast-food chains wanted to set up there because of "The Troubles". Many ran restaurants.

According to the Chinese embassy in London, there were nearly 10,000 Chinese citizens living in Northern Ireland in 2007.

Lo's decision comes just months after a Chinese man was left with a broken jaw in an attack.

Lo said she hoped such incidents would not put off foreign investors, as she believed most of the Irish were not involved in such hatred. "They're just as angry as me," she said

She said she had no plans to move back to Hong Kong.


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This article is now closed to comments

I Gandhi
Too many mindless and prejudiced people in Britain who are full of racism, prejudice and religious extremism. According to statistics as much as half the UK population falls into this category with the numbers increasing substantially due to the economic and financial crisis. For these reasons, the Scots also wants to leave Britain. Britain can't even integrate into the European Union and usually plays a spoiler role. British society have gone to the dogs. Sad for Britain.
Formerly ******
It's not racism, you coward. Hang in there and fight it out.
Marcus T Anthony
I Gandhi, here's a typical comment from you, posted a few days ago:
"The Anglos are a snaky bunch of MFs that will corrupt, steal and B S especially if there are willing fools and weaklings."
The question you might like to ponder is whether you are any different from those you condemn here.
The SCMP comments are full of racial hatred for foreigners - Caucasians, Vietnamese, Japanese, Philippinos etc. - & they do not get removed. I could have chosen dozens of equally violent quotes from I Gandhi to include here, & many 100s from other posters.
Several posters condeming racial prejuduce above are chronic offenders.
Until people begin looking at their own attitudes, then all discussion of this topic is meaningless. It's merely an exercise in the projection of shame.
The most important question is why the SCMP does not remove such posts & ban the offenders. There are but a few dozen posts here per day. A junior member of staff could be given the daily job, & it would take no more than 15 minutes, I'd estimate.
I can think of only two reasons why the SCMP does not act. 1) It is supportive of the racism & hatred. I'd like to think this is not the case. 2) It does not consider the problem to be important. I suspect this is the real issue, & it reflects the fact that the discourse on racism in Hong Kong is poorly developed.
Finally the SCMP is currently exacerbating racial hatred in HK by effectively becoming a focal point for its unregulated expression.
Hong Kongers are gearing up for another annual demonstration against killings in Beijing -- not Tiananmen as the media want you to believe -- on June 4, 1989.
Let's put this in perspective with what Ms. Anna Lo is telling us about Northern Ireland.
Had the same happened in China, prorated to the humongous Chinese population, sectarian violence in Belfast would have an equivalent death toll of 2.53 million and 36.11 million injuries. Similarly, there would be 1,444 racist incidents against minorities per day, or 527,000 per year.
If China had the same level of violence, it would take at least one million anti-China HK publications to report a significant fraction of these crimes.
Don't worry! We have enough China bashing publications and Hong Kongers ready and willing to amplify their hate passions at least 10000 fold come June 4.
oh so you think britain has gotten better since it joined the EU?
the eu is collapsing , you are wrong
the brits are right, pull out asap
America and Western Europe have suffered under Far Left politics for decades so it's going to take some Far Right to get centered again. If there is a Far Right, it stands to reason that there is a Far Left, but the media has concealed that fact and told us there is no "Far Left", just the "mainstream" and the "Far Right". People are finally waking up to that lie and it may take some Far Right excesses to bring us back to the center. Hold onto your hats, it'll be bumpy for a while. America will lead off by eviscerating the Democrat Senate in November. After the socialist fraud in the White House is gone, things will get immeasurably better. The Left is all about "feelings" and "good intentions" but fails at everything they put their hand to. Being on the Left is the default position. You don't have to think, just "feel" and throw other people's money at problems. Being on the Left means never having to say "I'm sorry". The Left has had it's time, now it's time for rational thinking and experienced adults to take the levers of power.
Dai Muff
Well, if you go to a world centre of religious bigotry, it's a bit naive to expect it to not also be a centre of racist bigotry.
"I'm disillusioned with the current state of politics, which is still mired in the past. It's tribal politics, us-and-them politics, not politics for all in Ireland."
What a cowardish statement, Ms. Lo. Perhaps you should go to a country with one-party system, become a member of that party, then you do not have to put up with other political streams and directions. Perhaps Mrs. Lo did not understand what it means to be a politician in a democracy. You have to fight and campaign for your ideas and belives instead of playing the insultee and blaming your own coutrymen: "her decision stemmed from the inability of people in her adopted homeland to shake off sectarian hatred". But overall Mrs. Lo is a showing a typical (mainland) Chinese behaviour: if somethings fails, blame it on "the others".
This is not racism. Drop the victim mentality. She has taken a stance on a political divide in a place here few people are willing to compromise and there are many (non-racist) bigots. Her choice; she should have anticipated the result.
The concept of an economically united but politically segregated EU was always going to be challenging to implement given the wide disparity in wealth between member states. The recent election results speak more about the public's dissatisfaction with the EU concept than an endorsement of racism. Unfortunately, there are extreme elements in all nations (see tea party in the US) willing to take advantage of the dissatisfaction to promote their own agenda. In the long term, elections are decided by the majority of moderates in the middle so we may see a swing back towards the center next election cycle.



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