Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for April 13th, 2009

Getting the Chinese in Britain to Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th April, 2009

chinese-voting-initiative-chinatownYesterday afternoon — between a Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey social in Hackney and meeting up with the Tamil demonstrators in Parliament Square — I took part in a Chinese community event in Gerard Street, Chinatown, Westminster, to urge ethnic Chinese in Britain to play a fuller part in public life in this country. The first step is to get thousands of them to register to vote. Hence the ‘Get Active Get Voting Campaign 2009’ , which will try to maximise enrolment in the run-up to June’s Euro-elections. As Leslie Ng, President of London Chinatown Chinese Association, commented, ‘A lot of Chinese did not vote partly because of the language difficulties and partly because they didn’t know how or who they should vote for. ‘ Leslie and several colleagues kept up a lively running comentary over a sound-system as volunteers handed out leaflets from a colourful stall. The organisers even inveigled me into speaking a few phrases in my (now rusty) Mandarin. And the event was covered by the People’s Daily in Beijing!

The tide is beginning to turn, from apathy to participation. Liberal Democrats in London had a welcome boost to ethnic Chinese representation in London local politics when Linda Chung won the Hampstead Town by-election a few months ago, while in Northern Ireland, Anna Lo won a seat on the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast for the Alliance Party at the last assembly elections.

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Thaksin Calls for Revolution

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th April, 2009

thaksin-shinawatraThe exiled, ousted Thai politician Thaksin Shinawatra has declared that now the Thai army has tanks on the streets of Bangkok, ‘it is time for people to come out in revolution.’  Thousands of his red-shirted supporters brought chaos to the Thai capital over the weekend and forced the cancellation of a planned summit of leaders from the 10 ASEAN (South East Asian) countries in the coastal resort of Pattaya. They are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was voted into power by the parliament in December, and has now imposed a state of emergency. Thaksin was removed from the premiership in 2006.

The Red Shirts have become increasingly violent in their anti-government protests, setting fire to buses, attacking government cars and throwing missiles, including petrol bombs, at police. But in return, the army has gone out onto the streets, firing live rounds into the crowds, as well as into the air, causing dozens of injuries. Fatalities are certain if the confrontation does not stop and there must be a likelihood of the military making a coup d’etat, as they have done on various occasions in Thailand’s recent history, unless some semblance of calm is restored. For the time being, Abhisit says he is hanging on in there, but his political position is perilous. And he can hardly complain about the Red Shirts taking to the streets, as the rival, conservative Yellow Shirts, who brought Bangkok’s airports to a standstill four months ago, as well as camping out in the capital’s administrative area, were larely responsible for the chain of events that brought him to power.

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