If you’ve been following the news you’re probably aware of the large-scale demonstrations happening in Hong Kong. Occupy Central With Love And Peace is a civil disobedience campaign formed in March, 2013; their goal is to fight for the right of Hong Kongese to have a free and unbridled democracy. On August 31st the Chinese government announced they’ll allow direct elections by 2017- but there was one exception, voters would only be allowed to chose from a list of pre-approved candidates. Since then, the situation has gradually escalated to where thousands of people are on the streets today.
Despite the many differences between Toronto and Vancouver’s upcoming municipal elections, there’s one thing they have in-common. Both cities have women with Chinese backgrounds running for Mayor. Toronto’s Olivia Chow was born in Hong Kong, and her Vancouver counterpart Meena Wong was born in Mainland China. Also in common is that both were active with the federal NDP. They’ve also been quite close, Wong was Chow’s personal assistant from 1999-2002.
But despite the mayoral hopeful’s similarities, there’s one significant difference. As explained in a story in today’s Globe And Mail Wong has now gone public- speaking out in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. So, what happened with Olivia Chow?
What Does This Have To Do With Olivia And China?
On September 4th, at a debate with Rob Ford, John Tory, and David Soknacki; Olivia Chow came out with a confounding proposal. Her idea was to market Toronto as a good place to build a currency exchange for the Chinese Renminbi. She explained how she travelled to China when she was a Member of Parliament “selling beef, pork, etc”, and also selling them on her concept for an exchange. This wouldn’t be the world’s first, there’s been a big trend building Renminbi exchanges and they’re already established in cities including London, Frankfurt, New York, and many others (some say that the market is now saturated).
Could Olivia Chow’s silence on Hong Kong be as a result of her wanting to do business with China?
Chow Has A Long History Of Supporting Uprisings:
Olivia Chow’s fans are likely to be throwing out objections at this part of the story. It would be easy to claim that she has no responsibility to speak-out, and they’d be right- that said, it would be incredibly out of character. Chow loves revolution, many of her base supporters are the faux-revolutionaries we saw causing trouble during the 2010 G20. When Occupy Toronto came along, she was right there on the scene.
Another objection could be that this is an international issue- outside of her jurisdiction. Perhaps, so it making trade deals with China. Also, her stance against Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal isn’t a local issue either. So, with all the times she’s stretched, why not now?
Chow’s media liaison has been asked for a comment on her position on Hong Kong, but no response has come in yet. Other people have asked for her opinion too, and she’s not responded. But understanding her history, and her aspirations to do business with China, it’s highly likely she’ll try to weasel out on this one. Social justice is important to Chow, but not when it gets in the way of her other plans.
There could be one other explanation though. One of the key differences between Occupy Toronto and Occupy Central is that the latter is filled with people a whole lot less anti-social than the former. The Hong Kong protesters are doing everything they can to help attract the public, and not to repel the public like Chows allies at Occupy Toronto did. Perhaps she finds that approach too unsavoury?