Protests sow division among Vancouverites whose roots are either in Hong Kong or Mainland China

Good reporting on ongoing tensions:

On a scorching Saturday afternoon, Vancent Zhu stood outside a SkyTrain station in Vancouver shouting slogans that condemn violent acts by Hong Kong anti-government protesters. He was facing off against a few hundred supporters of the Hong Kong protests. Among them, a few metres away, was one of his friends.

“Sad. That was exactly how I felt,” Mr. Zhu said, saying he and his friend hold totally different perspectives on Hong Kong’s biggest political crisis in years.

He compared himself and his friend to workers who built the Tower of Babel: “We were once cheering and laughing together, but now, we seem to be strangers.”

At the August protests, Mr. Zhu was joined by hundreds of demonstrators whose roots are mostly in Mainland China. They took to Vancouver streets four times, voicing support for Hong Kong police and denouncing violence during the protests.

“Love China, love Hong Kong; no secession, no violence,” they chanted. In between the rallying calls, they sang the Chinese national anthem, and many were waving a Chinese national flag.

A few meters away stood protesters that mostly have ties to the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. They held “Free Hong Kong” signs and shouted “Hong Kongers, add oil” – an expression to show encouragement – in Cantonese.

The massive protests that have wracked Hong Kong for months were prompted by a controversial extradition bill that has now been withdrawn. But the protests have shown few signs of abating. Demonstrators have added to their lists of demands, which include political reforms and an independent investigation of the police, whose use of violence in response to the protests has angered many.

The turmoil has spilled into major cities around the world that have ex-pat communities, including Vancouver, where the crisis has revealed tensions between newer immigrants from Mainland China and the longer-established Hong Kong immigrants.

Cantonese, the mother tongue of Hong Kongers and residents of several areas of southern China, used to be the dominant language in the Chinese-Canadian community. However, census data from 2016 showed the number of residents speaking Mandarin – the official language of Mainland China – at home in Canada has surpassed the number of those who speak Cantonese.

The same data show the number of Cantonese speakers is slightly higher than the number who speak Mandarin in the Vancouver area, but the gap narrowed significantly between 2011 and 2016.

The Hong Kong protests have opened up deep divisions between the two groups, prompting some Hong Kong Canadians to reject being identified as Chinese.

Jane Li, spokesperson of Vancouver Hong Kong Political Activists, a student-formed organization, said a hidden division between those from the Mainland and Hong Kongers has “erupted.”

“I feel unfortunate, but I am not surprised.”

The 19-year-old said the difference between the two groups lies in politics, but also culture.

“Languages we speak are different. … A lot of adults were brought up while Hong Kong was under the British regime, and they still separate themselves from the Chinese identity,” she said. “Also, in the previous 10 years, the political interference from China has caused a lot of discontent.”

Ms. Li said the divisions have been brought to Vancouver.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” formula, which expires in 2047. The agreement guarantees Hong Kong liberties not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and a free press.

For lots of Hong Kongers, the city’s core values – respect for the rule of law and democracy – align much more closely with those of the West than the authoritarian China.

Although Hong Kong protesters considered the proposed extradition bill a further indication of Beijing’s encroachment on the city, Mr. Zhu and many in his group believe Beijing and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region did nothing wrong.

“You have the right to hold different opinions with the government, but please [protest] within the law. You cannot use violence to beat, intimidate those who do not agree with you.”

Mr. Zhu refuses to be labeled as pro-China: He said he believes people like him who are angry about the protests were actually showing support for the Asian financial hub.

“We also support Hong Kong. … But we don’t support violence,” said Mr. Zhu, stressing that striving for freedom and democracy by using violence is unacceptable.

The anti-government protests started with peaceful marches, but violent clashes between demonstrators and police have escalated in the past few weeks. Hong Kong police have used batons, tear gas and pepper pellets to push back crowds, while protesters have set street fires and hurled bricks and petrol bombs at officers.

“Violence clearly happens. … As long as there is violence, it’s wrong,” said Leo Ji, who attended a pro-China rally on the same August weekend in Toronto.

Members of the Chinese-Canadian community who are condemning the protests are convinced some of the Hong Kong demonstrators and their supporters want independence, although that is not among the demands. But anything that would harm the country’s sovereignty hits a nerve.

At the event in Toronto, Mr. Ji said he saw supporters of the protests holding a coat of arms that was used in colonial Hong Kong.

“To my knowledge, this is a behaviour of secession,” he said.

Ashely Yu, 22, who attended three pro-China rallies in Vancouver, pointed out the “Free Hong Kong” sign, an indication, she said, of a call for independence.

“Hong Kong is part of China,” Ms. Yu said several times.

Victor Ho, former editor of Sing Tao Daily in Canada, argued violence isn’t mainstream in the protests. He added pro-China supporters in Canada and elsewhere are largely influenced by Chinese propaganda that alters information about the Hong Kong movement to discredit it.

When the first massive peaceful protest broke out on June 9, it made international headlines, but Chinese state-backed media ignored it. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social-media platform that has about 200 million active users a day, content about the protests was censored and information on the June 9 protest didn’t appear at all.

But as clashes became more frequent, Chinese authorities described the movement as showing “signs of terrorism.” Pro-democracy leaders, including Joshua Wong and Martin Lee, a former member of the city’s legislative council, have been called the “saboteurs of Hong Kong” and “traitors.”

Fang Kecheng, assistant professor in the school of journalism and communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Chinese propaganda is intended to tell its consumers that the protesters’ demands and the ways they deliver them are unreasonable.

“Violent acts are decontextualized [by the Chinese propaganda] and the effect is very obvious, according to opinions online, on WeChat and Weibo. It provoked many Chinese people to oppose or even resent the Hong Kong protests,” Prof. Fang said.

Ms. Yu and Mr. Li acknowledged the main sources of their information about the Hong Kong protests are media outlets or social-media platforms in China. But Mr. Zhu, who said he has examined the issue through reporting from China, Hong Kong and Western countries, concluded the Western media are biased.

Chinese officials have denounced Western journalists, saying they purposely overlooked the violence.

Prof. Fang said the strong reaction from the pro-China camp is not only derived from a potent campaign by Beijing, but also reflects the fact that many overseas Mainlanders tend to link China’s interest to their own, especially when the country is becoming more powerful and influential.

China’s economic success was followed by a heightened sense of patriotism and nationalism. Nicholas Wang, one of the co-ordinators of the pro-China rallies in Vancouver, said attendees don’t uphold China’s Communist Party, but simply have a “patriotic heart.”

“China has become powerful, so people now dare to speak up,” he said.

Mr. Zhu called for Hong Kongers to drop their entrenched prejudice against China because it has been trying to improve itself. He stressed that he hopes peace and order can be restored soon.

But for Mr. Ho and other pro-democracy supporters, this fight cannot end.

“Now, it’s a battle of guarding [the democratic] values that Hong Kongers can’t afford to lose. Once they lose, they would become slaves,” he said.

Source: Protests sow division among Vancouverites whose roots are either in Hong Kong or Mainland China

In Malaysia, fake news about citizenship for Chinese stokes racial tensions

Stoking some of the underlying ethnic tensions in Malaysia:

Malaysia’s National Registration Department (NRD) on Monday lodged a police report against several social media users for falsely accusing the department of indiscriminately granting citizenship to Chinese nationals.

Fake news that mainland Chinese were being granted Malaysian identification cards has been circulating on social media for the past month, the latest in a series of attempts to stoke racial tensions at a time when the relations between ethnic Chinese Malaysians and indigenous Malays “are at their lowest ebb”, according to an expert.

“The information spread through social media is false, and the report is to enable the police to conduct a thorough investigation,” NRD director general Ruslin Jusoh told reporters at a press conference to announce the police report.

He dismissed claims that the NRD discriminates by granting Malaysian citizenship to certain foreign nationals.

“This is not true and for the record, we do not choose applicants based on their ancestry or nationality in granting them Malaysian citizenship,” Ruslin said.

The social media posts, spread mainly via Facebook and Twitter, featured pictures of alleged Chinese nationals on a blue Malaysian identification card. The blue card, known as MyKad, is only issued to Malaysian citizens.

A mainland Chinese woman, who has been married to a Malaysian for almost 20 years and was granted citizenship in the Southeast Asian nation, was the subject of one of the posts.

“The person is a spouse to a Malaysian national and has fulfilled all the requirements to be a citizen based on … the Federal Constitution and that qualified her application for the citizenship,” Ruslin said, adding that it is not easy to obtain Malaysian citizenship.

He said Indonesians made up the largest group of foreign wives who were granted Malaysian citizenship.

Political analyst Azmi Hassan warned that the viral posts were intended to create the perception that it was the current government’s plan to grant citizenship to foreigners, a move that would create distrust toward the ruling Pakatan Harapan government among Malays.

“When news regarding foreigners getting citizenship are circulated as if it is true, the strategy is to create a perception that it is the policy of the current government … and no doubt to create uneasiness since the relationship between Malaysian Chinese and the indigenous Malays are at their lowest ebb right now,” Azmi said.

“The end result is that the Malays will not trust the government … and the Malays’ [feeling] that they are losing the country to foreigners is becoming real.”

Ethnic Chinese comprise an estimated 22 per cent of the country’s 32 million people, while Malay-Muslims make up more than 60 per cent of the population.

Political analyst Azmi said the mainland Chinese citizenship hoax had been cleverly done to look real.

“This strategy of foreigners getting MyKad or citizenship has been used numerous times … but no doubt it is very effective when foreigners and sovereignty are lumped together,” he said.

MP Lim Lip Eng from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, has found himself a victim of the fake social media posts.

A WhatsApp message that appeared months earlier, accusing him of registering mainland Chinese for citizenship in his constituency in Kepong district in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, recently went viral again.

“That WhatsApp [message] is a fake. It resurfaced a month ago,” Lim told the South China Morning Post. “The current atmosphere of fear and tension of racial and religious divides in Malaysia is at the tipping point. Any incident can be twisted into a racial or religious issue, no matter how fake it is.”

The DAP has of late faced a barrage of fake news depicting the party as unpatriotic, anti-Malay and anti-Muslim.

“DAP, a predominantly Chinese-based party, is and will always be targeted by the opposition, the racists and religious extremists when they plot to stoke racial and religious issues,” Lim said.

DAP’s secretary general Lim Guan Eng was in 2018 appointed the country’s first ethnic Chinese Finance Minister in 44 years after Pakatan Harapan staged an upset to win the general elections.

The appointment of ethnic Chinese to strategic positions in the government has caused unease with certain segments of the Malay-Muslim populace, according to political analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani of BowerGroupAsia.

“There is still distrust among the Malay community with Chinese leaders in Pakatan Harapan. The fake [identification] issue will only validate their racial narratives,” Asrul said. “This is an attempt to stoke racial sentiment and legitimise the narrative that the Chinese are pendatangs [foreigners or immigrants] in this country.”

While the country’s Penal Code has provisions to deal with insults delivered with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, it does not have specific legislation against racism – something Lim from the DAP wants to see changed.

“I have told the Pakatan Harapan government to rein in fake news by the freewheeling social and printed media with tougher penalties before Malaysia is out of order and the economy plummets,” he said. “The cabinet must come out with plans to criminalise racism and religious hatred.”

Azmi, the political analyst, said Malaysia’s 62-year existence as a multiracial nation has been held together by mutual trust and co-operation between the different races.

“It does concern me … with all the fake news circulating, I’m afraid that the bond that binds us together will be broken and if this happens, it is going to take a long time to mend it and Malaysia will be at the losing end,” he said.

Source: In Malaysia, fake news about citizenship for Chinese stokes racial tensions

Meet the wealthy immigrants at the centre of Vancouver’s housing debate

Good in-depth profile of some of the background and stories regarding mainland Chinese immigrants:

The mainlanders are the most recent of several waves of Chinese immigration to Vancouver. But they are not from the places familiar to Vancouverites for the past 160 years, like rural Guangdong, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

The 139,890 who have arrived since 2000, according to federal statistics, are from Nanjing, Shanghai, Harbin, Beijing, Guangzhou, Qingdao.

And they are a kind of immigrant Canada has not seen before, at least not in these numbers. They are here with money and confidence after surfing the wave of one of the world’s biggest economic booms, the result of people from Regina to Rome buying stuff stamped “Made in China.” The boom produced 3.6 million millionaires by 2014, up from 2.4 million in 2013.

…But they wonder why Canadians are ready to take their money for their houses – perhaps more money than they thought they would ever get – and then complain.

“A woman I know, her house cost $400,000 19 years ago and she sold the house for more than $2-million. She was happy, she has a studio now for her painting,” Sherry Qin said over coffee at UBC’s Old Barn Community Centre with three of her friends, including Ms. Yin. They like to gather here because one member of the group lives in a townhouse nearby.

And they do not understand why, if Canadians do not like the way things are, their governments will not change the rules – for investment, for preserving old houses, for citizenship, for paying taxes, for charges on vacant houses – instead of blaming newcomers.

And they were as divided as others over B.C.’s new tax for foreign buyers. Sherry Qin said B.C. should remain a free market. Anita He said it will send a message to all Chinese: “We don’t like you.” Alan Yu said it was a good idea. “I think it’s good to suppress the speculation in the real-estate market and it helps to fulfill the needs of affordable housing. I hope it could lower the housing price in Vancouver.”

But such government regulation is not new to them.

Chinese cities, which control who can be defined as a legal resident, are imposing their own restrictions. Shanghai has strict rules. In February, after house prices had jumped by 21 per cent in the previous years, it tightened the approvals for non-resident buyers even more.

Vancouver’s new arrivals also are puzzled why Canadians complain about wealthy people moving here when their government decided which kinds of immigrants it wanted.

“The government just chose rich people so they have lots of money,” said Mr. Liu, who immigrated to Canada in 2005 through the skilled-worker stream, not as an investor, even though he owned a chain of Best Buy-like stores in China. He is doing well, with a home he bought in Kerrisdale so the family could be close to Crofton House, where his daughter went to school.

(The proportion of immigrant-investors to Canada never exceeded more than 4.1 per cent of the total number of permanent residents. About 8,500 immigrant investors came from mainland China to B.C. between 2000 and 2015, along with 23,000 family members. In the same period, B.C. accepted 23,000 skilled workers and their 33,000 family members.)

Source: Meet the wealthy immigrants at the centre of Vancouver’s housing debate – The Globe and Mail