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Restaurant boss James Wong on his plans for thousands of Hong Kong Chinese to move to Birmingham soon

A series of ever-shorter bets on Nijinsky in the 1970 Epsom Derby has just paid a further dividend more than half a century later – after town center restaurateur James Wong was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Aston. His father Siu Chung Wong came to Britain over 50 years ago with just £7 to his name, but after pocketing his Nijinksy earnings on a dozen slips, the tireless dim sum chef went on to found the restaurant Birmingham’s Chung Ying a decade later and today is one of Southside Chinatown’s leading businesses, now run by eldest son James.

After receiving a doctorate in recognition of his service to the Chinese community, Dr James Wong now hopes his achievements will help him “give back to inspire the next generation of Chinese to become Brummies”. James told BirminghamLive: “My parents wanted me to go to university, but when I went to UMIST in Manchester to study paper, science and management, I was so shy that I could not. hardly speak.

“My freshman year in college was hell. I was so shy that I couldn’t chat with anyone at all. But, at the end of my freshman year, I was on a flight of stairs and someone yelled at me, ‘James… where are you living next year?’” That moment changed my life. I had a place to live the following year. I started making friends. I started talking. I started my journey where I am today.

Read more:Chung Ying’s Story Explained By James Wong On Key Anniversary

“When the Chinese New Year rolls around, there are people who want to talk to me, and then we’re forgotten for the rest of the year. But I’m a proud Brummie who can talk about the benefits of this city for hours. As a community, we Chinese people are so underrepresented, whether as MPs, councilors, etc. … we have to learn to integrate ourselves more.

Now turning 48 as of the weekend and a father of two young children, James is a leading figure in the city’s Chinese community which he says numbers some 20,000 people across the region with as many students again. But he knows that his success is not enough if the community is to not only thrive, but also contribute to its host society.

Chung Ying’s restorer, James Wong, received an honorary doctorate from Aston University.

James told BirminghamLive: “I want my honorary doctorate to inspire the next generation. Due to China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, thousands of Hong Kong Chinese are coming to the city to learn, invest and hopefully , become entrepreneurs.”

The British National (Overseas) visa created by Boris Johnson’s government grants Hong Kong citizens residency rights and eventually citizenship. Over 100,000 people have already applied to come to Britain.

James adds: “Many have been to London, Liverpool and Manchester before. But many are coming here to Birmingham because land in the city center is still relatively cheap and, for anyone from Hong Kong with property, affordable.

“But, like students who come here to study at great expense to their parents, I say don’t come if you’re not going to fit in, if you’re not going to learn English – and by that I don’t mean just the language, but the jokes and the quirks, everything. How to mingle to get ahead in business is very important.

Seven-year-old James Wong and his brother Richard are pictured with their parents Siu Chung Wong (late father) and Yuk Ying Wong (mum) at the opening of Chung Ying in August 1981
Seven-year-old James Wong and his brother Richard are pictured with their parents Siu Chung Wong (late father) and Yuk Ying Wong (mum) at the opening of Chung Ying in August 1981

“I didn’t have the brains to study (properly) and was so shy, but I never forgot the act of kindness of inviting me to live somewhere. I took a degree, but I didn’t want to chain I wanted to live my own life and find my own way, which I did.

“Now I feel like I have the opportunity to change a generation because I am proud to be Chinese and proud of my heritage, but also because I am a Brummie in a city where thousands of Chinese from Hong Kong is coming thanks to developments like HS2 and the fact that they love places like Solihull where I believe there are already 1,700.

“These people have no shortage of a few ‘bobs’ and they come, they invest, they make Birmingham their home and hopefully create jobs too.

“But there should be a lot more support services to help them, if not for students, especially it’s like, ‘Three years. Goodbye. Get out.” They should be encouraged to explore the city more, to fit in a bit more instead of staying in their community, talking about the same thing.

“Make Western friends. Improve your English. Network better…there’s no point in going to college if you can’t push yourself – might as well stay in China and save your friends lots of money.” parents.

“They might think ‘How can we fit in’, so we should offer them a service that allows them to do that. So it’s my ambition to create a Chinese community center, mentor the next generation and create a home for the elderly so that when people succeed, they will come back to me and say, ‘Thank you for changing my life’.”

James Wong, Chairman of the Birmingham Chinese Festivals Committee
James Wong, Chairman of the Birmingham Chinese Festivals Committee

Who is James Wong?

James Chin Bond Wong is a former chairman of the Southside Business Improvement District (BID) and remains a member of its board as the area includes Chinatown. He founded the Midlands China Business Club, chairs the Birmingham Chinese Festival Committee and was also chairman of the committee that brought ‘Cultures of China, Spring Festival’ to Birmingham for the first time.

He is Governor of the Overseas Chinese Association School, Patron of the Chinese Community Center Birmingham (CCCB) and Chair of the Chinatown Arch Project Committee. Each month, about 40 elderly Chinese people are invited to dine for free in its restaurants.

In 2016, he was Businessman of the Year; in 2017, Brummie of the year; and in 2018, Points of Lights winner.

The Chung Ying catering business took the names of his parents – James’ late father Siu Chung Wong, who died in 2011, and his mother Yuk Ying Wong, who is still in Birmingham.

Their three sons, James, Richard and William were all named after English kings – James and Richard were sent to live with their grandparents in Hong Kong for several years while their father worked tirelessly to establish himself – finally opening Chung Ying with the help of money he had first accumulated a decade earlier by supporting Nijinsky in the Epsom Derby in 1970 with a dozen tickets as his initial long odds began to crumble. shorten.

Read more:Why Birmingham’s Chinatown now sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel after two years of nightmare’

Watch: I went to one of the oldest Chinese supermarkets in Birmingham – and it was better than my local Tesco

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