Minority Ethnic and Religious Communities: Cultural and Economic Contribution

Posted in by natwei_lngozg

24 May 2012

                Source:  Hansard My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, for tabling this timely debate and for his truly enlightening speech. It is a testament to the value of this House that so many Peers are able to represent and speak on behalf of different minority interests here today, a strength I fear the current proposals for Lords reform may eradicate forever if carried out without very careful consideration. Somewhere in our system we must preserve a means by which the voiceless can have a voice. In the interests of time, I will speak primarily on the contribution played in British society by ethnic Chinese. In this, I declare an interest as the only active parliamentarian of Chinese origin, as chair of the APPG for East Asian Business and an adviser to several organisations involved in trade between the UK and Asia. The Chinese in Britain represent the third largest ethnic minority group and also the fastest growing one. From 2001 to 2007 the number in Britain grew 9.9% annually according to the Office for National Statistics. The population is estimated to be about 700,000, excluding tertiary students and tourists from China. There are many diaspora Chinese, from all over the world. There are the Hong Kong Chinese, such as my parents. Many of them came in the 1960s through to 1997. There are the British-born Chinese, such as myself. There are the Taiwanese Chinese, the Singaporean Chinese, such as the late Michael Chan-the much-loved physician who served in this House-the Malaysian Chinese, the Vietnamese Chinese, the Mauritian Chinese and the mainland Chinese, including those who have recently arrived and who are often highly educated and affluent. Without their necessarily having shouted about it from the hills, it is important to recognise that the Chinese who live, study and visit here contribute a huge amount to the UK. That might be in the Chinese catering industry, which employs in excess of 100,000 people and contributes £4.9 billion to the economy; or in the 200,000-odd students who, during and after university, contribute to our economy through educational fees; or the many professionals of Chinese origin who work in the City and around the country. Whether in the large numbers of wealthy tourists who come to purchase British goods and services, or in the networks of diaspora investors and their firms who are investing billions in our economy and creating thousands of jobs, or in their general law-abiding contribution to our cultural life, the role of the Chinese in British society cannot be ignored. There are more opportunities for the Chinese to play an even bigger role in British society. First, I and others would like to help train more up-and-coming Chinese living and visiting these isles to develop socially entrepreneurial skills so as to take up a more visible and integrated role in British society. I would like them to be more engaged in informed political debate and to come up with solutions to the issues that the community faces. These can help create jobs, tackle ignorance, and address social ills for other groups and the public at large. Secondly, there is a significant untapped opportunity for the Chinese to help positively to influence the British education system, not only because they often perform well at school, but also because of more British people’s hunger to learn about Chinese language and culture. Thirdly, given the significant numbers of Chinese involved in the professions and in trade with east Asia, there is a role for the British Chinese in helping British and Chinese firms connect and do business together across the cultural and linguistic divide, whether as workers, or on management, or on boards. That will create jobs and prosperity at a time when we most need it. To grasp these opportunities fully, we will need the help and understanding of parliamentarians, the public and government. In closing, I shall ask the Minister, whose work in this area I greatly respect and admire, the following questions which I know matter in our particular community. What can we do to keep policy on immigration and visas balanced so that we can continue to trade with and access talent and skills from the East while rightly protecting our borders? What is being done to help to tackle ongoing prejudice and fear towards Chinese people in the media and at large? What is being done to harness local British Chinese in building trade with east Asia? How can we harness Chinese learning methods and speakers more in our education system? What can we do to help to mentor the next generation of Chinese British leaders to be more involved in our public life and party-political system when many are underrepresented at present due to the widely dispersed nature of the Chinese across the British Isles? End

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