Courtesy World Journal

Representatives of several Chinese-American communities held a seminar on “Chinese Participation in Politics yesterday, Today, and tomorrow” in Brooklyn last month.

Read the original story in Chinese at World Journal

Translated by Rong Xiaoqing 

The City Council’s passage of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s borough-based jail plan last month has ignited calls for more Chinese-American New Yorkers to run for public office.

At a forum organized by several organizations on Oct. 20 in Brooklyn entitled “Chinese’ Participation in Politics: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” many community leaders vowed to help raise awareness of the importance of participating in politics among Chinese residents, and to push more of them to run for public office. Some community activists pledged to run themselves.

The Chinese community had been vehemently opposed to the borough-based jail plan, which includes constructing a new jail facility on White Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The City Council’s vote to approve the plan, especially the ‘yes’ votes from both Peter Koo and Margaret Chin, the only two Chinese councilmembers, left many in the community deeply disappointed. The 20 or so community leaders who attended the Brooklyn forum discussed why their attempts to thwart the plan failed, and concluded that the community was not closely united, so didn’t get support from the two key councilmembers.

John Chan, president of the Asian American Community Empowerment, said that in the past, several issues the Chinese community cared about did not go the way many had wished and in some cases, Chinese’ interests were even sacrificed in the equation. This is because the political power of the Chinese community is not strong enough, and it is an urgent task to change that, he said. Now that Chinese entrepreneur Andrew Yang is running for the Democratic Presidential candidacy, more Chinese should follow his footsteps to run for public office, Chan said.

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Steven Wong, president of the Hotel Chinese Association, said he had supported Chin years ago when she was running for the council seat representing Chinatown, but on this jail plan, he feels Chin betrayed the community. He said Chinese voters need to be wise politically and elect someone who can really listen to the community and fight for its interests.

Jerry Lo, vice president of the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights, also blamed Chin for the jail plans’ approval.

“Chinese voters helped her to win the council seat. But when the Chinese needed help, she didn’t reciprocate,” Lo said. He also noted that Chinese voters had been too generous with political donations but not active enough in terms of casting ballots.

“Chinese voters need to be smarter. We are not an ATM for politicians,” said Lo. “We should mobilize our ballots to elect someone who can really help us.”

Among the community leaders who attended, Kenneth Chu and Kenny Chan said they are interested in running for office.