London's Chinese population must break cultural taboos and engage in politics or face exclusion from decision making during the recession.
The blunt warning comes from community activists from the Wardour Street-based British Chinese Project (BC Project), who are urging more of the capital's Chinese residents to participate in democracy, in a bid to push the community's concerns on to the agenda as the downturn bites.
It has launched a 'Get Active Voting Campaign' in a bid to register some of the estimated 30 per cent of the eligible British Chinese population who are not on the electoral roll. See Video (above) of project manager Mei Wong explaining the campaign.
Speaking at the Chinatown Chinese New Year celebrations on Sunday, Jackson Ng, a 25-year-old trainee solicitor and spokesman for the BC Project, said: "Because of China's political history the older generation prefer not to get involved in politics and tend to turn inside the community for help with problems.
"They often don't appreciate the power of the vote and unfortunately younger people follow that model. But we are British too and have a large population which is massively underrepresented in politics."
The issue of Chinese exclusion from politics was brought to the fore last year after the Home office tightened immigration rules without consulting the community, raising the prospect of thousands of restaurant workers being disqualifed from employment in the UK.
The issue threatened to hurt Chinatown businesses and prompted furious protests from the community.
The BC Project, which does not endorse any political party, says the issue highlighted the lack of a vocal Chinese lobby.
It wants to unlock the community's politcal potential by boosting voter registration and encouraging moreChinese origin people to stand for office.
Aware of the size of the community in central London wards such as St James' and Bayswater, all of the leading mayoral candidates courted the Chinese community ahead of last year's City Hall elections.
Chit Chong, a Green Party activist and one-time local councillor in Hackney, east London, says the community has a raft of needs which will intensify as the capital's economy contracts putting a strain on business and family structures.
"Our elderly people, for example, need care servies, but it's not something we've tapped into preferring to look after them within the family. There's no specific sheltered accommodation of elderly Chinese people, but I'm sure there is for Bangladeshi's or Indians in Tower Hamlets or Southall."
"We are woefully unrepresented in local councils - even where we have five, 10 or 20,000 people who can vote. The Chinese tend to keep their heads down and don't want to stir things up, but we're discovering that's not enough."