Newcastle’s Chinese community is deepening its contribution to politics at grassroots level in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town.

Figures from the China Embassy state that about 10 00 people of Chinese descent live in KwaZulu-Natal, with 3 000 in Newcastle.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) councillor in Newcastle Chuan-yi Liu is from Taiwan.

In the video below, IFP campaigns in KZN:

He came to South African in 1993 at the age of 25 to join his parents who were already in the country.

Twelve years later, he obtained his South African citizenship. The Liu family business is clothing manufacturing.

So, he says when he left Taiwan, he never imagined that he would enter the world of politics. His journey with politics began in 2006 when he joined The National Democratic Convention (Nadeco).

The party was formed by former IFP Chairperson Ziba Jiyane. But following a series of internal issues, Nadeco lost all of its national and provincial seats in the 2009 general election. It was at this point that Liu joined the IFP.

“I was not involved in politics even still in Taiwan, because I think because of my age, when I came to South Africa at the age of 25, I did not have any experience of politics. My involvement in politics was also by accident where my father’s friend asked me to take part in politics. I think in the beginning, I joined Nadeco, and eventually I realised when getting more knowledge of politics of Nadeco we then joined the IFP in 2016.”

Not long after this Liu became the IFP’s PR Councillor in the Newcastle Municipality, only the second person of Chinese origin in the municipality after Shiaan-Bin Huang who became the deputy mayor on the African National Congress (ANC) ticket after initially floor-crossing from the IFP.

Now, Liu says South Africa is his home and that its Chinese population are here to add value to the economy and the political landscape.

“Newcastle has become a very unique place. Many of us see this as our home now. This is also my country and to me it’s important to contribute and express our opinion and we hope we can better this country and very importantly for our future generation. Many of our Chinese community already have already had second and third generation in this country.”

The decision to involve people who are not originally from this country into political leadership has received mixed reaction from some of the Newcastle residents.

While some believe Chinese who are South African should participate in all political activities, others has reservations.

Despite Liu’s committment, Newcastle locals remain divided on people who are not of South African origin, being involved in politics.

“They are fine. We are happy with them. It’s a free country by the way. Those who are running their businesses are helping to create jobs for our fellow brothers and sisters. It will be very wrong if they are elected because they don’t understand the plight and the way of life of our people in township. So, it is a challenge to take a person from China and Taiwan and elect him as a councillor. We need people who understand our challenges. I suspect these people are infiltrating political parties through their leadership to get positions so that they can be able to advance their own interests.”

Liu is on the IFP’s PR candidate list for this year’s local government election.

During the party’s campaign in Newcastle he reiterated his firm pride in the Chinese community’s strong work ethic, culture and financial expertise.