Anti-union Chinese parents’ group plans a political future in Vancouver
Taking credit for ending teachers’ strike, BCPF vows to fight on with appeal to ethnic unity
A group of ethnic Chinese parents who hit headlines in Vancouver by scuffling with supporters of striking teachers is claiming credit for helping end the industrial action and getting children back in classes last week.
Not content with that bold assertion, the anti-union British Columbia Parents’ Federation is now planning on making itself a fixture on the local political scene, appealing directly to ethnic unity among Chinese in an e-mail to BCPF supporters obtained by the South China Morning Post. “Other ethnic groups must know how we are thinking,” said the e-mail, translated from Chinese. The group’s members appear to mainly consist of mainland Chinese immigrants.
The e-mail was distributed by socially conservative Hong Kong-born political activist Charter Lau, although Lau said he didn’t write it and he isn’t an organiser of the BCPF. Nevertheless, he added his own name and phone number to the top of a list of contacts for anyone interested in the organisation.
The e-mail hailed the success of anti-strike protests organised by the BCPF on September 7 and September 14 (the one involving the scuffles). “[BCPF members’] active participation in the protests and their strong response to media interviews were instrumental in ending the strike,” it said.
“However, the media and many parents have become concerned whether or not the BCPF has finished the job.
“The chain of events has highlighted the importance and workability of the BCPF. For the growth of the Federation, for solidarity among parents, and for the sake of our next generations, we have decided to hold a further meeting of the BCPF.”
The e-mail, dated September 22, goes on to invite supporters to a September 27 meeting at a Vancouver Chinese restaurant. There was a C$30 (HK$207.8) admission fee to cover costs, with “part of the fees reserved as start-up capital for the BCPF”.
An account of the meeting could not be obtained, and Lau said he did not attend. However, the BCPF’s ambitions are clearly political, and the direct appeal to the ethnicity of fellow Chinese shows they are not above using the fraught issue of race to drum up support.
“As one of the initiators and organizers, I have learnt that we, as parents, must make our voices heard and other ethnic groups must know how we are thinking,” said the e-mail writer.
“We must cherish our votes and vote for suitable candidates. Only by doing that, can we make our voice part of mainstream opinion, even if in a smaller way at least we will be seen as part of mainstream opinion. Otherwise, our rights will be seen as represented by others, and we will be marginalised. If that happens, who will care about our existence and message?”
In an interview on Monday, Lau denied that he was a BCPF organizer. The former candidate for the Burnaby school board is known for having vigorously campaigned against the sexual orientation and gender identity policies adopted by the school boards of both Vancouver and nearby Burnaby.
He said he sent the unsigned e-mail, but didn’t write it. “The whole thing was not written by me, but I copied it into my e-mail and sent it out. I acknowledge that,” said Lau. “I am not one of the organisers. But I do support their actions, attend their rally, etcetera.”
Lau said he “spoke to a couple of guys” before the first rally, to try to get to know the organisers, and find out “what their background is and how they would like to conduct their rally”. He denied having attended the second rally, saying that cellphone footage of the protest that he posted to his personal YouTube channel was shot by someone else.
“Let me tell you straight. I am not part of their organisation. But I do bump into a lot of Chinese. All the Chinese that I know wanted the kids to go back to school…so I do exchange ideas, ‘oh this works, this doesn’t work’. But if you say that I am part of [the BCPF], officially, then that is totally wrong.”
Lau said he was contemplating running for elected office again but declined to discuss his plans.
The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70.