Tung Chan, June 7, 2012
Vancouver Sun community blog, © Vancouver Sun
How you answer this question about C. Y. Leung Chun Ying depends on whether you are reading the Chinese or English version of this article. If you are reading this in Chinese, you will most likely know that Mr. Leung is the Chief Executive Elect of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. But if you are reading the English version of this article and you do not read Chinese, you will most likely not know who Mr. Leung is or be aware of the recent election in Hong Kong.
How can it be that people who live in Vancouver and care about the news have no knowledge of this import Hong Kong event? This happens because we use different languages to obtain news? I believe the reason is because there has been very little coverage of this event in the local English media even though the election has dominated the headlines of the local Chinese language media for weeks in April. CBC, a news organization mandated to inform Canadians of international events that are relevant to us, treats this event as it never happened.
In Metro Vancouver, almost one out of 6 or 7 residents are of Chinese heritage and possibly half of them are from the Hong Kong region. One would think the local English media would have the good sense, in order to attract more customers, to report more of what is happening in the Asia-Pacific region from where these people or their parents came.
Even if we put that aside, I remember a few years ago a former Consul General of China in Vancouver said the relationship between China, of which Hong Kong is a part, and Canada can be summed up in 1, 2 and 3. 1: China is the number one source country of immigrants to Canada. 2: Chinese is the number two most common language spoken by Canadians outside of Quebec. 3: China ranks number three in bilateral trade with Canada. You can see how important Hong Kong and China is to Canada. As providers of news to the people living in this aspiring “Gateway to Asia” city of Vancouver, local English media outlets clearly have a duty to inform their customers of crucial happenings in the Asia-Pacific region.
But to me there is another important reason why the local English language media needs to report more news about Asia. The Vancouver Foundation last year interviewed over one hundred community leaders and surveyed close to three hundred social service organizations to find out what issues concern them the most. They found an unexpected result: the respondents were most concerned about the lack of connection between people and communities. They said people did not seem to care much about each other; communities live in silos and there is a lack of community spirit or a sense of neighborhood. They also relayed that people worry that if this goes on unchecked, it would lead to a breakdown of the community and people will stop trusting or cooperating with each other. They fear this trend in the long run will turn this heavenly place on earth into a place that is less than ideal to call home.
In order to develop friendships, people not only need to share a common language but also need to have a common interest or common knowledge of something. This is why two individuals who are not familiar with each other often start their conversation talking about the weather. They do so because they both know about the weather. They both know they would have something to say about the topic. So if local people want to make friends with recent immigrants from China, they will do well to learn more about the hot topics in Hong Kong and China. Local English language media is naturally a good source of information if they would include more Asia-Pacific news in their regular news pages. Doing so will allow locals to have more conversation topics to discuss with their new friends from Asia.
The local Chinese language media do an excellent job reporting on what is happening locally and nationally. Newcomers are well aware of what is happening in this country. Accommodation and adaptation are two-way streets. Newcomers have to adapt to local customs and culture. Locals, however, also need to be aware and appreciative of newcomers concerns about what is happening in the places they came from. It is only in so doing that people can live together harmoniously in an equal and mutually respectful environment.
I sincerely hope our local English media operating in this “Gateway to Asia” will, on both economic and on humanistic grounds, increase their news coverage of what is happening in Asia. Readers, viewers or listeners will then at least be familiar with important issues happening in Asia and now know who the key players are like C.Y. Leung Chun Ying.