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Words of Wisdom from Co-Chair of CLD Tatyan Cheung

February 19, 2018 3:42 PM

Cllr Tatyan CheungCo-Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats Tatyan Cheung gives a rare interview on what attracted him to the Liberal Democrats, life as a Town Councillor and encourages younger members of Chinese community to get involved in politics too.

Q: Many people from the Chinese community especially from the 1st generation shun politics. What was it about the Liberal Democrats that attracted you to join as a member?

A: 1st generation Chinese immigrants unfamiliar with the British two-party adversarial political system generally found it difficult to identify themselves with the 2 main parties and to their tribal roots. Language and heritage also played important roles as well as the Chinese tradition of a less confrontational culture. However subsequent generations have learnt to assimilate and adapt to the British way of life.

With the 2 main political parties of Conservative and Labour alternating in government, politics seem to be conducted at the extremes and has left a void in the centre for newcomers. The Liberal Democrats have traditionally occupied the central ground, and that was the reason why I joined the LibDems.

Q: You succeeded on your first attempt to be elected in New Mills ward in May 2015. What is life like as a town Councillor in Cirencester?

A: Being a town or parish councillor could be very engaging; it is the first layer of bureaucracy between residents and government. It is akin to doing voluntary work on a decision-making or consultation level. The council's remit is usually at local community level, not like policy formulation at County Hall but closer, for example, to dealing with dog fouling on the pavements.

Town councils' finances are usually pretty small and under £1 million, so interesting projects seldom happen. We did have a £1.5 million town regeneration project completed recently but has since attracted criticism for its design. I also assisted in establishing a friendship link with a Chinese city but this was turned down by the Town council because of a lack of resources. The council had plans for a neighbourhood plan but this was before the District Council consented to a 2,350 housing development on the outskirts of the town. We get the wrath as well as the love of residents, and it is very difficult to hide because we live locally in the community.

Unfortunately, in order to concentrate on the County Council elections I left the town council in 2017.

Q: I understand that you are very keen for the young to understand Chinese history. Can you explain why you think it is relevant?

A: For the Chinese living in Britain, there is more we can offer to our society than just being British and that is our Chinese heritage. Chinese history is the source of that heritage.

Chinese history is probably the longest of recorded histories and certainly one of the richest, both in depth and breadth. We have Taoist and Confucius philosophies, Sunzi's military strategy, Han Dynasty administration, Tang and Song poetry, Mongol and Manchu conquests, and lately the fight against foreign occupations and independence. This wealth of knowledge will be extremely useful for the Chinese ethnic minority in Britain to make themselves stand out in society.

We live in a competitive world and constantly seeking competitive advantages, I cannot stress enough the importance of the ability to think outside the box, to relate and compare different values and belief systems, to bridge and transcend across cultures, and to enrich human understanding and knowledge.

A Tang Dynasty emperor once said that by learning from history, we can predict success or failure. Everyone should understand history, and more so for people engaged in public life.

Q: If you were to encourage the next generation of British Chinese to go into politics, what do you think are the most important reasons for doing so?

A: There is every reason for everyone to get involved in politics because politics affect us all, so I would encourage everyone to get involved.

For the young British Chinese, I strongly encourage they pluck up enough courage to give politics a go because they would learn a lot about everything, from doing politics in the form of campaigning or organising to being political with regards to policies and issues. More importantly they will discover if they are ready for it, and what they need to acquire in order to succeed.

It is the right and duty of every citizen to work towards a better society and the British Chinese have much to offer in the form of a holistic and harmonious approach to life, against the established culture of singularity and antagonism.

A word of advice: do come learned and well prepared, otherwise you will end up as second best.