A personal comment from Steve Lau, Chair of the Ensuring We Remember Campaign.
When asked if I am British or Chinese I say I am both. I find being described as half British and half Chinese somewhat offensive, though I understand it’s not (usually) intended to be. I believe I am a better person for being both, my life experiences have been wider and more diverse than would otherwise be the case; and I have had the privilege and benefit of two of the world’s greatest civilisations and cultures as the foundations from which to draw. I am fortunate to have had, and have two cultures to inform me, to shape my personality and to provide answers in life’s journey.
At times, I will admit, cultures collide, and create a kind of cognitive dissonance – from a metaphorical raised eye brow right through to alrm bells ringing in my head. The conventional view of the treatment of some of the Chinese workers by the British government and institutions was somewhere in between – an involuntary wincing of the face and feelings of doubt (surely that’s not true?) and anger (surely that’s not true!).
It’s like someone asking if you can hear a sound which is out of place, which until that point you had not heard, but now it’s all you can hear. You either go on a mission to fix the cause or try to ignore it until it goes away – after thanking the person for point it out, of course! But as we all know, somethings simply cannot be ignored. Our (if you are living in the UK) country’s failure to make good on it’s promise never to forget when it came to the Chinese labourers of the Great War fell into that category and, well, here we are.
As a Brit I believe in reflective commemoration of those who served Britain in times of conflict and made the ultimate sacrifice. I wear a poppy in November, not with pride, but with gratitude. In my mind it is right and proper.
As a Chinese it felt wrong that Chinese labourers had somehow been ‘overlooked’ for almost a century, their contribution recognised by few outside of academia and the good work of some Western Front tour guides. In my mind it was neither right nor proper. It was wrong.
Today I came across something which also is just wrong. I was reading comments left on YouTube (yes, I know that’s not always advised) to the video below. As a human being I was dismayed, as a Westerner (got the badge too) I felt ashamed , as a Chinese I felt rejected.
I’m calling out those who don’t mind scoring petty political points by effectively heckling and jeering at a people and a nation expressing their grief and mourning their dead. Shame on you, and shame on us all who have allowed our society to tolerate the intolerable, to accept the unacceptable and even to humour the reprehensible.
The video and the comment I posted.
Proudly British but at times so ashamed of some of the behaviour of my compatriots and and “westerners” in general towards China. Reactions to this video is one such time. I can’t believe that people use this expression on a nation’s grief and sorrow as an opportunity to kick that county and its people. Shame on those who have been so blinded by political ideology that they can no longer see trauma, grief and sorrow. You are blinded to the need for compassion, and if compassion is too much to ask of you, then try exercising some basic human decency and allow people to grieve and mourn without jeering and heckling them. There’s so many opportunities to spew your hatred of China on this platform, but this video is so obviously not one of them – at least it should be obvious. You hardly create an image of the West that’s going to be seen as attractive. Vile, heartless and cruel. Damn, shame on you!Video comment by Steve Lau
I am proudly British, but sometimes I hang my head in shame. I hope the people of China can forgive us and appreciate that this not how the majority of British people think. 对不起。
The great sorrow in China today is destined to visit Europe and the rest of the world. Soon. The Chinese people are no stranger to bitter sorrow, a the video says. Perhaps only when we feel the pain that the Chinese are feeling now will it be clear just how vile, heartless and cruel people have been.
The lingering bitter taste of sorrow will mean the Chinese will not repay us in kind, but can you imagine the outrage if they did. And rightly so. Let’s be no less outraged at what has been done to them.