The answer to that million-dollar question is not black and white. As the saying goes, “It’s complicated.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a deep well, you would have been made aware of the Hong Kong protests in national and local media.
Where, when and how will these protests end? Will they hasten Hong Kong’s demise? Or will the million-strong protesters stave off Beijing’s power grab?
Whether we side with the pro-democracy protesters or the pro-Beijing camp, we have to admit there are differences in the way things were run in the past and now, and how things will be.
So, is Hong Kong China?
Hong Kong was ceded to the British by the Chinese as a result of being defeated in the two Opium Wars in the 1800s (1839-1842 and, again, 1856-1860). It was handed back to the Chinese in 1997 under the agreement the former British colony would enjoy another 50 years of autonomy and to be known as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). This is where China’s “One country, two systems” come into play. Hong Kong will retain its own currency, legal system (completely distinct from Beijing’s and is based on British common law) and parliamentary system until 2047. The official languages are English and Cantonese, as opposed to mainland’s Mandarin.
Culturally, too, there are differences. Hong Kong may maintain Chinese traditions and observe the many cultural festivities, its exposure to international media and influences make its citizens take on a much more metropolitan view and ideology than the Chinese in the mainland, who have known nothing but Communist rule.
In 2015, a Hong Kong designer posted a series of “Hong Kong is not China” illustrations on Facebook depicting the differences between Hong Kong and China in terms of cultural habits, socio- political, censorship, judicial structures, etc. with the purpose of telling the world how Hong Kongers differ from the Chinese mainlanders and to “Mourn the fact that Hong Kong has been ‘colonized’ by mainland China.” Albeit some may be tongue-in-cheek, differences, real or perceived, are there. Following are some illustrations from the series.
Date: Saturday, 10 a.m., July 13
Location: Xiang Jiang Pavilion, Phalen Regional Park, Saint Paul
The MCFGS will hold a grand opening ceremony of the St. Paul–Changsha China Friendship Garden at the Phalen-Keller Regional Park located in Saint Paul on July 13. It will take place on the first day of the Dragon Festival at 10 a.m. at the Xiang Jiang Pavilion. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter will attend along with other state and city officials and esteemed guests from St. Paul’s sister city, Changsha, Hunan Province, a relationship that began more than 30 years ago.
The July 13 celebration will begin with a dragon and lion dance procession from the dragon boat area to the Xiang Jiang Pavilion for the ribbon cutting ceremony. This will be followed by several short speeches, Hmong and Chinese cultural performances, and the reading of the winning poem in the Qu Yuan poetry contest. There also will be a number of cultural family friendly activities at the Pavilion until 1 p.m. including a Hmong Pandau demonstration, zongzi making, Chinese painting, big brush calligraphy, photo opportunities, and more.
The garden, officially named the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden of Whispering Willows and Flowing Waters or Liu Ming Yuan, sits on a 1.2-acre site at Phalen Park and is a sister-city collaboration between the cities of St. Paul and Changsha, Hunan Province and the Changsha Yanghu Wetland Park, facilitated by the MCFGS.
After years of planning and fundraising efforts, the garden finally took root in 2018 as the sister-cities followed through with the gift exchange that included a replica of Changsha’s Aiwan Pavilion and St. Paul sending five Peanuts character statues to Changsha’s Yanghu Wetland Park. The Xiang Jiang Pavilion was erected last fall, accompanied by a Hmong Heritage Wall Sculpture to representing the cultural and historical connection between the Hmong in Minnesota and the Hmong in the Changsha area. Changsha sent a team of 13 artisans to assist and train the construction crew to reconstruct the replica gift pavilion. The West Entrance Archway entry to the garden is currently under construction. The next phase of the project will complete the landscaping from the Pavilion to the water and establish a Hmong Cultural Plaza. The garden will eventually include an East Entrance Moongate and Donor Wall, an enclosed classroom pavilion, a Tai Qi plaza, a covered walkway and a small viewing pavilion.
"It's more beautiful than anything we imagined when we started this project so many years ago," said Linda Mealey-Lohmann, president and co-founder of the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society.
To celebrate the grand opening of the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden, an award ceremony and banquet to recognize and honor all of the volunteers and donors will be held at the St. Paul Hotel on July 12, 2019. Attending the ceremony will be St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter along with other distinguished guests, including Senator FoungHawj, Representative Tim Mahoney, and several dignitaries from St. Paul’s sister city, Changsha. In addition to celebrating this sister relationship, the celebration will recognize the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States.
Fourth of July. Independence Day. Nationalistic pride. A day off to enjoy community parades, picnics in the park, backyard BBQs and a night of fireworks. A day to celebrate one of the documents that is the foundation of the American spirit., the Declaration of Independence
In 1776, July 4 was a declaration of independence from the king of England, that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” It was an affirmation of freedom, liberty and freedom of choice.
The second paragraph of that most sacred of documents, the Declaration of Independence, states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Yet for the Chinese who came to “the Gold Mountain” in the mid-1800s in pursuit of a better life, this sentiment did not seem to apply to them except for the few early ones whose diligent work ethic and willingness to perform tasks European Americans deemed undesirable made them welcome.
Life for the Chinese immigrants in the mid-1800s was absolutely no picnic. They were feared, loathed and stereotyped. Many toiled as inexpensive railroad workers, miners, cooks and laundrymen. For those early Chinese in America, they were certainly not considered equal and their pursuit of happiness, let alone citizenship, was much thwarted.
Then, as now, there is a portion of the American population who feel they and their identity are under siege with the presence of Chinese (then) and other non-Caucasian (now) immigrants.
As a group, Chinese Americans are considered the “model minority” -- self-reliant with good work ethics and strong family values.
Yet, as the timeline shows, the “fortunes” of Chinese Americans parallel the ups and downs of U.S.-Chinese relations. Things improved during WWII, when the two countries became allies. Those Chinese, particularly students, who were stranded in the U.S. at that time became new immigrants. When the Cold War began, Chinese Americans were once again the target of suspicion and potential enemies of the state. Right now, with tensions between the two countries high, Chinese Americans are once again looked upon with distrust by some.
The FBI’s current campaign on economic espionage has China and Chinese Americans in its crosshairs.
In January of this year, the director of the Center for Public Health and Translational Genomics at the University of Texas, a naturalized Chinese American award-winning epidemiologist, stepped down after a three-month investigation into her professional ties in China. (No charges have been filed against her as we go to press.) Hers is not an isolated incident. A Bloomberg article in June reported “the National Institutes of Health and FBI are targeting ethnic Chinese scientists, including U.S citizens, searching for a cancer cure.” Three other top Chinese American scientists from Houston had left in recent months.
We cannot be too complacent. The constant bombardment of “China rising” may lead to the resurrection of “Yellow Peril” paranoia. Some of the recent political campaign messages are reminiscent of the mid- to late-1800s anti-Chinese rhetoric.
As Chinese Americans, we need to exercise our rights and voice our concerns, just like Norman Asing and Wong Ar Chong.
As Chinese, we’ll never look Caucasian American. So we’ll just have to grin and bear the question, “So, where are you from?” and trust that one day, the 1931 study that concluded Chinese may be “American by birth, but not in fact” will be but a sad past.
So, what’s your Independence Day going to be like? Given the unmentionable hardships the early Chinese in America endured, we should all be celebrating with gusto! But also remember their struggles.
Less than a month after Andrew Yang, the first Chinese American candidate for president of the U.S., arrived in Minnesota to appear at a rally and a separate fundraising dinner, CNN released their latest rankings for the 2020 Democratic field. Out of 24 candidates, only 10 are placed in the ranking.
“For the first time,” Yang stated, “they placed me in the Top 10. That places us far ahead of sitting senators, governors, members of Congress, and former Cabinet members. We are gaining serious momentum — and the media is finally starting to catch on.”
According to the CNN rankings of the 10 men and women most likely - as of May 23 - to wind up as their party's nominee, two new faces got added this time around, which means two people had to drop off the list. The two eliminated? Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
By Pearl Lam Bergad, Chinese Heritage Foundation, contributor
On the afternoon of March 31, the Chinese Heritage Foundation’s Sunday Tea Series presented photographer Wing Young Huie in a talk on his career and his new book, “Chinese-ness, The Meaning of Identity and the Nature of Belonging.”
Huie had invited us to meet at his studio, the Third Place Gallery, located in the heart of south Minneapolis. Fifty of us were seated in a semi-circle, bathed with natural light from the studio’s store-front windows and surrounded by Huie’s large photographs on two long brick walls. `
Huie began his presentation by talking about his father, who first came to this country from Tan- Shan, Guangdong Province in China when he was very young. He worked very hard, saved his money, returned to TanShan to marry and came back to work hard again. It was only after many such cycles before he was able to finally bring his wife and children over here. Wing Young was the only one of his six children who was born in this country.Add a comment
By Bill Waddington, owner, TeaSource, contributor
There are more than 3000 types of teas in the world, most of them from China, where tea dates back almost 5,000 years. Legend has it that the emperor Shen Nung discovered tea in 2732 B.C. when some tea leaves blew into his pot of boiling water. It is said the resulting brew with its pleasant aroma and sweet taste invigorated both his body and spirit.
Amazingly all 3,000 types of tea come from one plant that is native to China, Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. While there are many hot herbal drinks like mint and hibiscus, all true tea comes from this one plant.
By Sam Cleveland, contributor
Is the United States Department of Justice targeting ethnic Chinese in economic espionage cases? If so, is such targeting justified, or does it represent yet another noxious instance of American authorities using racial or ethnic profiling? Is the government targeting Chinese people at all, or are ethnic Chinese just more likely to be caught up in economic espionage?
These were just some of the many thorny and difficult-to-answer questions addressed on the evening of April 4 at the event titled “Pitfalls for All STEM Professionals in a New Era of US-China Relations” at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus. This program was co-sponsored by the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, the Federal Bar Association’s Minnesota Chapter, University of Minnesota China Center, and Kingsfield Law Office.
The evening began with a reception of approximately 200 attendees, half of whom appeared to be of Asian descent, including many recognizable leaders of Minnesota’s Chinese community. Guests mingled with the panelists, speakers and moderator in the McNamara Center’s foyer over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. One could hear many tongues, proof of the diversity of the attendees.
Americans know April 15 as tax day. But 107 years ago, it was a day that shocked the world.
At 2:20 a.m., April 15, 1912, the largest and most luxurious ocean liner of the time (and considered “unsinkable” by many because of its compartmentalized hull construction), sank into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean. Of the 2,200 people on board, eight were Chinese. Of the 706 who survived, six of the eight Chinese made it.
These six Chinese survivors of the RMS Titanic tragedy disappeared soon after their arrival in New York.
There has been much coverage of the Titanic story by the global media, but nothing was reported of the Chinese passengers. Of the hundreds other survivors who were interviewed by the press for their survival tales, none paid attention to the six Chinese.
By Greg Hugh
The Harbin Municipal People’s Government of China recently held the 2019 An Appointment with Winter in Harbin to celebrate over 40 years of sister-city relationships established with more than 36 cities in 28 countries. A 12-member delegation representing the City of Minneapolis (Sister City of Harbin since 1992). The delegation included Minneapolis City Council members Kevin Reich and Steven Fletcher; members of Meet Minneapolis, Mark Andrew, Melvin Tennant, William Deef and Courtney Ries; Leah Wong, Minneapolis Downtown Council; Ken Lau, US-China Peoples Friendship Association-MN Chapter; Jill and Sky Li Griffiths, China Champions Program-University of Minnesota; Greg and Linda Hugh, China Insight.
Living up to its theme, 2019 An Appointment with Winter in Harbin, many sister-city conference-related events were held and since it also took place during the 35th Harbin China International Ice and Snow Festival, delegates also had the opportunity to visit many festival events during the sister-cities conference.
Upon arrival in Harbin, our delegation was greeted at midnight by Robert Song, chief liaison officer for Harbin’s foreign office department, along with two college student volunteers, Abby and April, who would be our tour guide and interpreters during the conference with whom the group bonded during our three-day visit. A personal transportation van for our group was also provided. Fortunately, our delegation was staying at The Songbei Shangri-La Hotel was the conference headquarters and we were glad to be checked in after the long flight. Later we learned that some of the other 400 other delegates from other cities from all over the world were staying at three other hotels in Harbin.Add a comment
With President Donald Trump’s signature on Dec. 20, 2018, the "Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act," became law, making it official that this group of Chinese Americans will finally be recognized for their loyalty, patriotism and service to the United States during World War II. (Final version of signed bill)
By the start of the war in 1941, more than 100,000 Chinese and Chinese Americans had made a life for themselves in the U.S. Chinese Americans faced major challenges, including racial discrimination, under laws such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which limited Chinese labor immigration, the size of their population and their ability to build thriving communities. Nevertheless, almost 20,000 of these brave men and women served in the armed forces in every theater of battle and every branch of service, earning citations for their heroism and honorable service.
The Chinese Americans is the only U.S. minority group that has not been recognized for their service. Native Americans and Navajo Code Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen, Montford Point Marines, Women Air Force Service Pilots, Japanese Americans and Filipino Veterans have all been recognized for their service during World War II with Congressional Gold Medals — the highest honor that Congress can bestow.
By Greg Hugh
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Minnesota Chapter recently observed National Philanthropy Day by hosting a celebration to honor individuals and groups whose philanthropy has improved our communities and the world. More than 400 guests attended this event held in the grand ballroom of the JW Marriott at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
The following were recognized at this year’s celebration: Outstanding Philanthropists, Bill and Teri Popp and David and Patty Murphy; Outstanding Professional Fundraiser, Mort Naiman; Outstanding Philanthropic Organization, Federated Insurance Company and Jennie Hsiao, Outstanding Philanthropist.
According to the biography presented in the program booklet on each honoree, Jennie Hsiao was described as follows:
“Jennie Hsiao has been an active and recognized leader in Minnesota’s Chinese-American community for more than 60 years. She is described as a shining example of generosity, honesty, initiative, leadership, and dedicated involvement in causes she cares deeply about. A native of Hunan Province, she came to Minnesota in 1958 to marry Feng ‘Fred’ Hsiao, who co-founded Shaw-Lundquist Associates, Inc., the largest minority-owned construction firm in the Midwest, where until recently, Jennie served as a director.Add a comment
By Greg Hugh
Prior to the curtain raising at Northrup Auditorium, a small group of invited guests gathered at Legendary Spice Chinese Restaurant for a reception with organizers and performers from “The Greatest Spirit,” which would be presenting its overseas premiere. During the reception, representatives from various organizations along with a few political dignitaries, including the Deputy Consul General from the Consulate General of The People's Republic of China in Chicago provided some brief remarks followed by refreshments, including spirits.
Then it was onward to Northrup Auditorium to watch the show. Several speakers welcomed the gathering.
True to its advance billing, “The Greatest Spirit” presented poetry, music and dance in mural-like story scenes, telling the tale of the Chinese spirits (liquor) culture, and highlights the grandeur of traditional Chinese operas, the exquisite beauty of the costumes of past Chinese dynasties and the unique styles of Chinese ancient architecture.
While the show visually lived up to its advance billing, the full impact may have been lost on those that could not read Chinese since most of the 11 different performances was accompanied by an explanation in Chinese that was projected onto the stage. It would have been helpful if this were also provided in English, as in the program booklet. Providing the English translation would have enabled the entire audience to understand and appreciate the show much more while viewing an artistic production that demonstrated Chinese traditional rituals and etiquettes of spirits -- spirits and famous individuals, spirits and poetry, and spirits and philosophy in an artistic, poetic and dramatic manner.
The enthusiastic audience gave the performers a standing ovation.
The organizers of this event have pledged to donate all the proceeds to support the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society.
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By Pat Welsh, contributor
This language corner is a new series designed for people who are interested in learning Mandarin. In China it is called “Putonghua” (The “common language”) of China. Before the 1950s, the terms “Kuoyü” and “Guanhua” were used to identify this national language.
Since the early 19th century Chinese has been classified as one of the many Sino-Tibetan languages. My own experience tells me that that this is really a catch-all grouping. Tibetan, Burmese and related minority languages are nothing at all like any Chinese dialect. Not only are there vast vocabulary differences, there are also significant differences in sentence structure and grammar.
Before I delve further into the language itself, perhaps a little introduction to China’s overall language situation is in order. In 1970 I began to earn a Master’s degree in Oriental Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas. My first class was Readings in Chinese Political Writings. I arrived early to the classroom and greeted my professor Chichou Huang, who was unknown to me. I greeted him with the word “Zao” thinking that it meant “Good Morning.” He winced and invited me to take a seat. I was a little perplexed. What I did not realize was that in Beijing Mandarin, my version of the word “zao” sounded much like the Beijing version of the F-word. The tones between the Beijing and Chngqing subdialects were very different.
By Greg Hugh
At the end of this year, the Chinese Exclusion Act would have been repealed for 75 years. TPT will be broadcasting a series, “The Chinese Exclusion Act: American Experience” that asks “What it means to be American? What makes you American?” Check your local TPT station for dates and times when The Chinese Exclusion Act will be shown.
The Chinese Exclusion Act (Immigration Act of 1882) was a U. S. federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. The act followed the Angell Treaty of 1880, a set of revisions to the U.S.-China Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that allowed the U.S. to suspend Chinese immigration. The act was initially intended to last for 10 years, but was renewed in 1892 with the Geary Act and made permanent in 1902. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first and only law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. It was repealed by the Magnuson Act on Dec. 17, 1943.
From today’s perspective, it is difficult to believe that once upon a time in America, Chinese were considered heathens and subjected to widespread persecution and violence. The earlier hostile attitude toward Chinese is very different from the contemporary esteem for them as a "model minority" to be emulated by others.
While in a desperate attempt to “clean house” before Chinese New Year, an old book purchased decades ago revealed itself. It was as if it the gods were telling me that perhaps the house needs more than a mere “cleaning.” However, since remodeling is not in my stars at the moment, I figured leafing through an encyclopedia of feng shui wouldn’t hurt!
Nope, my house will not be transformed into “house beautiful” any time soon, but following are some tips that might help in planning for it.
For the uninitiated, feng shui is the age-old Chinese system for arranging one’s surroundings to achieve harmony and balance. “Feng” is “wind,” and “shui” is “water.” The practice of feng shui is based on three principles: chi (life force of all animate objects), Tao (the way to order our lives to live in harmony with nature) and the yin and yang (the positive and negative forces that are in constant motion to gain dominance).
A basic tool used by feng shui practitioners is the bagua, the octagon chart that maps out the areas of the house to determine optimal placement of furniture and the use of colors. Incorrect placement will have a negative impact on the nine areas of the residents’ lives: power and wealth, reputation, relationships, creativity, compassion, career, knowledge, family and balance.
To complicate matters,there is more than one bagua. A novice asked the following question on a feng shui forum: I am totally confused about the bagua. If I apply the Western bagua, my career is at the main door. If I apply the classical Chinese bagua, my career is in the bathroom! Which bagua works better?
Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law are names well-known to Hong Kong democracy activists, the HK Police and, probably, Beijing. As of January 31, they were also officially “introduced” to the Nobel Foundation, thanks to 12 U.S. congressmen from both sides of the aisle.
In a move that may create more tension to an already tense U.S.-China relation, the 12 nominated Wong, Chow and Law for the Nobel Peace Prize for the trio’s efforts and leadership roles during the mostly peaceful 2014 Umbrella Revolution -- the largest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong’s history. The three were sentenced and served prison sentences for their 2014 pro-democracy activities.
The congressmen’s letter of nomination stated, “Wong, Law and Chow and the entire ‘umbrella movement’ embody the peaceful aspirations of the people of Hong Kong who yearn to see their autonomy and way of life protected and their democratic aspirations fulfilled.”
The Nobel Peace Prize nomination is a first for Hong Kong and it could not have come at a more serendipitous time!
Beijing has been encroaching on Hong Kong affairs increasingly. Under Hong Kong’s “Basic Law,” (its constitution), Hong Kongers are guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly and demonstrations. However, it is clear the rights of the three student activists were infringed upon because their activities were not acceptable to Beijing and its agenda for Hong Kong.