Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Liverpool Commemorates the Chinese Labour Corps of the Allied World War I front 10th August

An important upcoming event in the history of China's relations with the West. A hundred thousand Chinese volunteers worked alongside the Allied forces in the European theatre of World War 1, doing some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. It was understood that an allied victory would mean China being given back its territories that had been taken by Germany.

These men were to be betrayed when the Versailles Treaty gave their land, not back to the Chinese, but to the Japanese, laying the foundations for some of the worst atrocities ever committed by humans on other humans.

Here is announcement from the Meridian Society.

Liverpool Commemorates the Chinese Labour Corps

As the centenary commemorations of World War I draw to a close this year, Liverpool remembers the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps, almost a hundred thousand men from China who joined the Allied effort by providing logistical help at the Front.

The Meridian Society aims to raise awareness of their story nationwide through its project activities (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund). Local residents and visitors from elsewhere are invited to join us in Liverpool on the occasion of the centenary of the last Chinese labourer buried at Anfield who died on 9th August 1918.

A day of remembrance in honour of the Chinese Labour Corps will take place in collaboration with the Museum of Liverpool and Friends of Anfield Cemetery on Friday 10th August (details below).

A Family Activities Day will be held at the Museum of Liverpool on Saturday 11th August, at which members of the general public will be able to hear a talk on the Chinese Labour Corps and attend film screenings, or learn about the experiences of Chinese labourers by taking part in workshops on story-telling and Chinese arts and crafts. A number of Chinese Labour Corps artefacts will be on display and the museum will provide World War I objects for handling.

A photographic exhibition on the Chinese Labour Corps from the W J Hawkings Collection, courtesy of his grandson John de Lucy, and kindly prepared by The Oriental Museum of Durham University, is currently on display at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. Entitled 'A Noble Duty Bravely Done - The Chinese Labour Corps in World War I', the exhibition will run until 18th August 2018.

Remembering the CLC at Liverpool on Friday 10th August

Commemorative service
Time 1.30 - 2.30 pm
Venue: Anfield Cemetery, 238 Priory Road L4 2SL
A commemoration in remembrance of the members of the Chinese Labour Corps who died in Liverpool to be held at their graveside in the Cemetery. Local residents and visitors from elsewhere are most welcome to join us in honouring them.

Film Screening
Time 3.30 - 5 pm
Venue: Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head L3 1DG
A documentary film ‘Forgotten Faces of the Great War’ containing oral histories by descendants both of Chinese labourers and Western Chinese Labour Corps officers to be screened at the Museum. Numbers are limited and places will be allocated on request.

If you would like to attend these events please email us
For more details on the project, please click here


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Jeremy Corbyn condemns cheap labour from abroad on day of Chinatown protest against immigration fishing raids


Labour dogwhistles echo Trump protectionism and the spirit of MAGA


Congratulations and a big thank you to everyone who made it to today's protest against the Home Office's aggressive immigrant fishing raids blighting London's Chinatown, called by the London Chinatown Chinese Association. These raids have intensified under the Tories' hostile environment ever since the Brexit vote to the point where shocking footage shows an elderly woman collapsing and almost being hit by a vehicle in a raid on 5th July.



Tellingly, Jeremy Corbyn not only neglected to tweet support to a community under siege, but he chose today of all days to state his opposition to cheap labour from abroad, reinforcing the bogus immigration debate as if this was the key problem facing British workers.

Instead, he launched "Build It In Britain". Not like MAGA, then.



He could have argued against companies that pay low wages. However, instead, the implication is that its the phenomenon of immigration itself that is the cause of our economic woes and not any one of a myriad of screw-ups such as Cameron and Obama destabilising the world by military action in Libya, the pound tanking after the EU referendum or even just a predatory, greedy ruling class.

I don't know which double-barreled twit in his team claimed his words were being twisted into Fake News, but recent statements by his mates chart the course of this disastrous anti-foreigner frame of mind, especially when it comes to the Chinese.

A perfect storm has been brewing for Britain's Chinese community: a hostile immigration environment sweeping up east Europeans and Windrush workers alike; the Labour Party's betrayal of the principle of freedom of movement for labour; the increasingly bizarre political scapegoating of Chinese by Paul Mason and fellow left populists. Then, of course, there's Trump whose protectionism against the world, and especially China, is plucked straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook (more on Trump's China trade war in another blogpost).

This has been bulding for a while. Bereft of socialist ideas to galvanise the opposition into government despite nearly a decade of Tory austerity that's left most of us desperate for progressive, inclusive politics for a change, Corbyn, Seumas Milne et al have chosen Trumpian populism, focusing on foreign workers as responsible for our ills. Think I'm exaggerating? Here's Jeremy's left stablemate, Paul Mason:



'Cause China's millionaires are so much more venal than ours ... who've been around for a lot longer. So much for class analysis. Mason has been trying to persuade Corbyn to favour "... a strategy designed to allow the populations of the developed world to capture more of the growth projected over the next 5-15 years, if necessary at a cost to India, China and Brazil ... to save democracy, democratic institutions and values in the developed world by reversing the 30-year policy of enriching the bottom 60% and the top 1% of the world's population". So we're fighting for the 39 per cent, then — for the few, not the many. I like the way he's snuck in the 1% to justify his proposed wreckage of foreign economies.

Here is someone who was prominent in various left parties, including being in the Socialist Alliance press team (where he did very little while I did the work for no pay),  dropping his "workers of the world unite" Marxism for a piece of whatever it is that Trump's got. "It is," he continues in an appalling lurch to the right, "a programme to deliver growth in Wigan, Newport and Kirkaldy — if necessary at the price of not delivering them to Shenzhen, Bombay and Dubai."

Evidently, China raising 800 million out of poverty after decades of low paid labour in suicide factories making our stuff, and following almost two centuries of misery inflicted by the world superpowers as well as their own decaying Qing dynasty, is an unacceptable inconvenience to westerners and nothing to do with the dynamics of capitalism. My major objection came when China was persuaded by the US to join the WTO and suddenly state assets ended up in the hands of the children of top cadre. However, they are where they are. All that pain they went through and now western opportunists want to trash it just as they're getting up off their knees.

The China-bashing is getting ridiculous. Domestically, there's much to challenge but in terms of economy and foreign policy, right now, China and Germany under Angela Merkel look like the only grown-ups in the room — if we're stuck with capitalism until that ol' gravedigger gets going, these are the best. Mason's passionate pleading for plucky little Victoria's Secret against big bad China was puzzling on many levels. I remember when Chinese women were often represented by women in white science coats cuz we were encouraged to use our brains, not our T and A. Today, women in China have to struggle against the sort of shite portrayals of women that white left males crave but should have dumped a generation back: the lingerie company does not represent any sort of liberation. Neither is it some sort of workers' paradise for anyone who knows the company's exploitative history of using child and slave labour, and its terrible sweatshop conditions in Jordan for "guest-workers".

Nearly 20 years ago we held our first Chinatown demo when New Labour tried to blame the UK Chinese for the devastating outbreak of foot and mouth disease, an association of a racial group with filth and pestilence that would make Goebbels proud. I'd hoped that things would be better under a purported socialist but I've been told by Corbyn's friends that there are no Chinese workers in Britain (not even the Dover 58 or the 22 cocklepickers who were lost in Morecambe Bay) because we "all work in catering" and are therefore all "petit bourgeois", and that its "British workers who count".

As Catherine Stihler, co-chair of the Scottish Labour for the Single Market group, told the Independent: “While some voters are angry about immigration, it is the job of the Labour Party to challenge anti-immigrant sentiment and promote the benefits to our economy and public services.”

Freedom of movement for labour has long been a crucial left credo, a counterbalance to the freedom of capital to chase cheap labour across the globe. Thus, when James Dyson's cleaning technology proved to be so massively popular, he closed down the Wiltshire factory and moved it to Malaysia for all that loverly cheap labour. We wouldn't blame Malaysian workers for Dyson's decision but it's Dyson who gets the CBE and the knighthood while the foreign workers get the vilification.

Trump's trade war with China could easily slip into a hot war as some of Trump supporters seem to want.  One nuclear superpower in Thucydidean conflict with the upstart power. If that happens, none of us will be  immune from the fallout.

Here at least is one welcome message of support for today's demo.



Daniel York at today's lively London Chinatown protest

Today, China is being scapegoated for "impoverishing" the global working-class. Eighteen years ago, New Labour was blaming UK Chinese for the foot and mouth disease outbreak that Blair's government had abysmally failed to deal with. I was twice blasted out of the blue by the Ipswich Labour MP: first time for joining the Labour Party to support Corbyn (I've since departed), the second at a party where he ranted at me at length about "iniquitous Chinese" and their death penalty ... which I oppose, by the way, but that made no odds, my Chinese face being my guilty scarlet sign. The Labour Party has failed to uproot their prejudice against Chinese people and it's getting worse. Anti-Chinese racism — the one you can get away with.

Friday, 4 May 2018

When is a dress just a dress? American teenager's Chinese prom dress and cultural appropriation

Anna Chen writes in the Guardian, An American woman wearing a Chinese dress is not cultural appropriation


(Guardian headline and standfirst written by sub-eds)



When is a dress just a dress? Remember those photos of the little cocktail number that looked blue with black lace to some and white with gold lace to others when they were in fact the same frock? American teenager Keziah Daum now possesses a prom dress with similar magical properties, and it’s landed her in hot water with culture pedants.

The attraction of the qipao (“cheongsam” in Cantonese) is obvious: a sexy, figure-hugging sheath of silk with a high mandarin collar balancing a va-va-voom flash of leg via a thigh-high slash. Its beauty, however, turned into a curse when photos posted on social media of her wearing her beloved vintage find made her a target for tens of thousand of tweets accusing her of cultural appropriation. That’s one heck of a fashion crime.

The original complainant’s instinct – to draw a line at a time when Chinese people are under siege from Trump-inspired China-bashers – is understandable, but in this case, completely mistargeted. If anything, the qipao represents power and class, not race, and certainly not the culture of some exploited underclass.

The qipao’s history is said to have originated with the Manchu Qing dynasty, when members of the Han population they ruled were forced to wear a loose version of the one-piece instead of their own traditional clothing. Created in Shanghai in the 1920s, when warlords ran vast swathes of republican China, the slinkier form of qipao was a fashion favoured by one ruling strand of Chinese society that we associate with Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists, who fled to Taiwan when the communists won their revolution in 1949 and ditched the bourgeois qipao for Mao suits. Some even detect a western influence in its hybridisation, meaning the current outcry could be compared with taking offence because someone in Asia wore a tuxedo.

At its core, the identity debate is about power: who has it, who’s lost it and who’s chucking it around with abandon. This is hardly a case of a white American dressing up in a fringed chamois tunic with a feather headdress, mocking the indigenous people their antecedents almost wiped out.

At least Keziah wasn’t tip-toeing around to mimic bound feet in a play set a millennium before foot-binding became a thing in China, as in perhaps the most absurd example of cultural appropriation I’ve witnessed. In More Light at London’s Arcola Theatre several years ago, seven white actresses played Chinese concubines buried alive (allegedly) with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210BC. Wearing kimonos (Japanese) and sticking chopsticks in their hair (!), this was a prime example of badly executed appropriation. Unlike Keziah’s appreciation.

When cultures meet and mingle, they inform and enrich each other. I can wear tartan, wear pyjamas, knock up a curry, curl my hair, cry along to the blues and dance to funk. I know the difference between a schmuck and a schlemiel. I’ve sat shiva for a friend’s father. I love gefilte fish. Does this make me a cultural appropriator?

The whole cultural appropriation debate is in danger of being turned from a defence of minorities under the colonialist cosh into a lazy substitute for real political power. How has it degenerated to the extent that we’re now on social media mobbing teenagers whose only crime is to consider a Chinese dress beautiful? Qipao-gate this isn’t.

With President Trump and his acolytes pumping up yellow peril fears around China, and his trade wars threatening to slip into hot wars, the last thing we need is this trivialised pastiche of serious debate. Minorities have precious little ammunition with which to challenge tribal juggernauts. Don’t waste what little cultural and political firepower we have.

Keziah was neither stealing power nor claiming ownership. And she looked lovely.

Here's me wearing the cheongsam from my solo show Suzy Wrong Human Cannon (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), at the ICA in London for a performance of Bondage Pic by Grace Lau.

Guardian piece

EDIT Here's a taste what we're thought of in Britain and pretty much generally in the western Chinese diaspora:

The Opium War by Julia Lovell book review: Smoke and mirrors and barely disguised disgust for the Chinese.

What happened when the Tony Blair government tried to blame the catastrophic outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease on the UK Chinese.

For a minority to be truly part of British society you have to be visible, otherwise you're a blank canvas onto which the dominant group's inner demons can be projected. The Chinese British community finally say no to yellowface when the Royal Shakespeare Company does The Orphan of Zhao.

Similar controversy when London venue The Print Room produces a yellowface In the Depths of Love and then performs like a contortionist to make their risible excuses leaving most of us aghast and laughing in disbelief.

Sherlock and wily orientals: Blind Banker, Episode 2 review. I'm afraid this has completely wrecked my enjoyment of anything featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. Trigger warning: it features a qipao.

Sinophobia and Copenhagen: open letter to the Guardian's Mark Lynas. Right now, Germany and China lead the world in green energy policies while Trump pumps fossil fuels, even contriving to leave the Iran nuclear agreement on dubious grounds which is sending the oil price rocketing — $71 at time of writing, expected to go over $100 for the next three years. Great for Texas ...

... and Canada is currently sitting on the planet’s second largest oil reserves which it plans to release into the markets and the atmosphere, and is the first Kyoto signatory to renege on the deal. China is sticking to the Paris accord despite Trump pulling out the US.

To "trump" it all, we're even excluded from debates about us: Laurie Penny excludes woman of colour from debate about representation of women of colour

Friday, 16 March 2018

Anna Chen's band The Snow Leopards - photos from the mists of time

Found some old pics of me with my band, The Snow Leopards. Even before Apple! Well, it was long, long time ago in a universe far, far away ...

Cruella coat designed by Dave Vanian's girlfriend, Laurie, in the King's Road days.



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