A pro-China parade shows how community dynamics have shifted over the years. Former rivals sit side-by-side, demonstrating a new kind of collaboration.
By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When a thousand participants commemorated the 60th anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China by storming through Seattle’s Chinatown last Sunday, serendipities occurred.
It was a celebration that melted down hatred. It was a celebration that made anger transform into collaboration. Past grudges were buried and people, young and old, marched for the future.
Rivals were willing to ride together.
Leading the parade was a strange pair on a convertible, Ping Chow and On Lau. Chow, 95, is a staunch supporter of the current Taiwan government while Lau is a pro-China leader in the Chinese community.
Chow’s wife, the late Ruby Chow, was a King County Council Member. She was a long-time critic of Lau. The Chows were known for their anti-Communist stance toward China for decades. In the past, the Chows had frequently appeared in the annual local parade to celebrate Taiwan’s national day on Oct. 10.
Several bystanders’ jaws dropped when they saw Chow and Lau riding together. It was odd for Chow to appear in a pro-China parade and he was next to his wife’s opponent.
A staff member from Seattle Chinese Post (SCP), Northwest Asian Weekly’s (NWAW) sister paper, asked Chow why he chose to attend. Chow said he came at his own will.
“I have two mothers,” said Chow, “one who raised me and the other who gave me birth. They were from China.”
The SCP staff member asked what Ruby Chow would say about his actions. Would she be unhappy?
“No, she wouldn’t,” said Chow.
Master John Leong of Seattle Kung Fu Club served as a mediator for the two. He has been close friends with both for decades.
“I did this for the Chinese community’s harmony,” said Leong. He invited Chow initially to participate in the parade. According to Leong, Chow immediately said “Yes.”
“I wasn’t sure if Uncle Chow understood that this is for China’s national celebration, not the Taiwan’s,” Leong said. But Chow responded that he’s Chinese, too, said Leong.
Realizing the sticky situation and ensuring there would be no misunderstandings, Leong and his wife met with Chow’s children — Cheryl, Brien, and Mark — for lunch weeks before the event. The family members talked and decided they would support whatever made their dad happy.
Leong then persuaded Lau to sit with Chow during the parade. During the ride, Chow was sitting high on the back board of the car. Lau was on the seat. Neither of them engaged in conversation. Chow smiled and waved to the onlookers.
When NWAW asked Lau about the arrangement, he simply said that it was fine.
Chow’s gesture is perceived as a triumph for many who are pro-Chinese. However, it was also a slap in the face for Taiwan. Because Taiwan’s typhoon Morakot destroyed the southern part of the island, the official reception in a mainstream hotel and a Chinatown parade to celebrate Taiwan’s national day in October were cancelled.
The majority of Chinese community organizations joined in the parade except a few.
This is by far the biggest involvement of community groups and older leaders in a celebratory political parade. Some groups have switched from being pro-Taiwan to being pro-China, such as the Indochina Chinese Elderly Association.
Chinatown used to be dominated by Taiwanese influence. However, in the last decade, Taiwan’s influence seems to be eroding as China emerges as a world power.
Taiwan officials have repeatedly said that it is acceptable for the Chinese community to be friends with both sides. During the recent Seattle visit of Taiwan’s President Ma Ying Jeoh, he had reiterated the same sentiments. Chow had been seated next to Ma at the dinner table, which showed the Taiwanese government’s appreciation of Chow’s long-standing support.
In the evening, a banquet was held at Sun Ya Restaurant. It was attended by nearly 400 people. Not all were parade participants.
One guest who has a firm pro-Taiwan position, who declined to be identified, said, “I have not changed my stance. I have always been anti-Communist. That’s why you don’t see me at the parade. But coming for a meal, it’s okay with me.”
Kenneth Tao, who was marching with the Indochina Chinese Elderly Association, said, “I go to both sides’ events.”
This would never have happen a decade ago when the community was bitterly divided. Both sides boycotted one another other’s events. Now, people from both sides can ride in one car or even sit across the table. Some call it progress while others say it’s the modern way of agreeing to disagree. ♦
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.