Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Chen wary of return to riots against Chinese

Published:Monday | March 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

President of the Chinese Cultural Association, Professor Anthony Chen, has expressed concern about a recent wave of anti-Chinese sentiment being fomented across Jamaica, and he fingered, media houses among the main culprits.

Chen, who was making his inaugural presidential address at the official opening of the Chinese Cultural Association of Jamaica at its 22 Barbican Road, St Andrew, office yesterday, reminded the audience of the anti-Chinese riots which rocked Jamaica in 1918 and 1965.

"There are chances of it happening again, especially since many more stores are opened in various parts of Jamaica by new immigrants from China ... . There is no secret that a substantial number of persons in Jamaica have made antagonistic comments, both in the media and in private conversations, about China's involvement in Jamaica, especially with the announcement of the proposed Goat Islands project," he warned.

Chen, who heads the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies, Mona, said most of the criticism of the project was grounded in the fact that the investors are Chinese.

"To be clear, I am not referring to genuine concerns of some of those who are worried about the environment. I am referring to the antagonism that would not be there if a United States or United Kingdom firm were making the Goat Islands proposal," he said. "The antagonists have been swayed by propaganda, both locally and internationally."

Chen noted that most of the comments informing public dialogue on the issue allude to an overall and eventual surrender by Jamaica to Chinese demands, with journalists playing a very active role in promoting this line of reasoning.

"The Western media are very powerful, persuasive, and sometimes pervert and hypocritical when it plays on the fear that China will become a neo-colonial power. It swamps out the good news of China's contribution to Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean and, consequently, to Jamaica's growth," he declared.

Irrational commentary

Chen then took the issue local.

"If you listen to talk shows, you will hear people saying some irrational things. They will take things said and make a mountain out of them. For instance, because the minister says he is giving citizenship to, or considering giving citizenship to, foreign investors, people are saying that is how the Chinese are going to come in, and they are going to get citizenship, [and] of the Chinese who come in, [they're] going to get citizenship and then they are going to give the work to themselves and say they have given it to Jamaicans."

Last week, Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill announced that Jamaica had conditionally waived visa requirements for tourists travelling from China. This, he said, was done to ease the difficulties experienced while harnessing the marketing potential from the Asian country.

Chen said that while news of the waiver continues to occupy talk shows, usually missing from the conversation is the fairness and balance associated with good journalism.

He said: "When you ask them, 'Why do you allow American citizens to come in without visas? They say, 'Well, that's different'."