Big plans for Chinese centre

Anna Lo (Chinese Welfare Association) and Allan Leonard
Anna Lo (Chinese Welfare Association) and Allan Leonard

Big plans for Chinese centre
18 November 2004

Alliance’s Allan Leonard, has welcomed renewed plans by the Chinese Welfare Association for a Chinese Resource Centre to be located in South Belfast.

Receiving details of the plans from CWA Chief Executive, Anna Lo, the prospective Laganbank candidate stated that the centre would provide invaluable opportunities for the Chinese community.

Mr Leonard said: “The proposed centre will enable the Chinese community to demonstrate their proud culture, and will improve mutual understanding with the wider community.

“Indeed, everyone should support this campaign, because Northern Ireland society benefits massively from the 8,000 Chinese people living here. Minority ethnic communities have contributed economically, culturally and socially to Northern Ireland.

“Supporting cultural diversity is not about being nice to others, but being truly appreciative of the contribution those from ethnic minorities make in our society.

“I will assist the Chinese community with their plans for a resource centre, not just for their own sake, but also for the benefit of our entire community.”

Mr Leonard said that in South Belfast 61 racist and 9 homophobic incidents for the six month period in the period April to September 2004, compared to 59 racist and 10 homophobic incidents in the same period last year.

“That’s 91 racial incidents throughout Belfast in six months — about 15 a month or between 3 and 4 per week. For hate crime in general, there were 129 incidents in 183 days — almost 22 per month just over 5 per week.

“It was as a result of Alliance’s lobbying that Hate Crimes legislation is being introduced in Northern Ireland. It will mean that those convicted of crimes motivated by hatred — such as racism and homophobia — will be dealt with more severely by the courts.

“South Belfast is the most diverse part of Northern Ireland, and people here are proud of that fact. However, there have been few convictions after racist attacks, and it is crucial that the public, authorities and PSNI work together to catch those responsible for trying to blacken our community’s reputation.”

Mr Leonard said political leadership is about much more than talking about good relations and equality in City Hall — it requires people to confront wrong when they see it.

“Not deny it, not excuse it, not provide fancy explanations for it, but confront it. It was therefore deeply disappointing to hear some councillors trying to explain away the real reason for opposition to the centre — racism — and dress it up as concern about changes in the area’s character, planning issues or parking problems,” he said.

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