Steven Cheung is at a news conference in London's Chinatown on Thursday, May 7, 2009. [Photo: Xinhua]
Like many Chinese immigrants of his generation and before, Steven Cheung was thrown deep into the vastly different culture of the West and expected to adjust fast.
Eight years later, the 19-year-old has not only settled well into his new London home, but he wants to help other Chinese residents do the same by being the first person of Chinese ethnicity in the UK to stand for election to the European Parliament.
Born to a Chinese father and Filipino mother in Hong Kong, Cheung left the special administrative region for the United Kingdom when he was 11.
The Cambridge University freshman, who turns 20 in October, speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Tagalog.
He remembers the challenges he faced upon his arrival in Britain, similar to ones faced by many Chinese people when they land on foreign shores.
"I faced discrimination due to my skin color when I first came here. I was the only Chinese in the classroom," Cheung told China Daily on Friday.
He solved the problem himself by introducing Chinese culture to his classmates, teaching them simple Chinese words.
A year-and-a-half ago, when Cheung started to work as a DJ at Spectrum, a multi-ethnic radio station in London, he was reminded of his problems as a new arrival when he began receiving calls from Chinese people in London.
"I can understand the issues Chinese people face in the UK, but they have no one to help them. That's one of the reasons why I decided to run for election," he said.
Cheung's achievements reflect his early ambition to make a difference for his community.
After being accepted by Cambridge last year, Cheung decided instead to take a year off from his studies to do social work.
He was chosen to be the London 2012 Olympic Ambassador for the London borough of Waltham Forest and appointed by the British Ministry of Justice as one of its young advisors. Cheung is also a winner of the 2009 Princess Diana Award, an accolade for young people who make a difference to their community.
"The slogan for my campaign is peace. I want to show that it is possible for people from different cultures to live together and respect each other. I believe that the Chinese can be a minority yet still have their voices heard," he said.
Cheung will run as an independent candidate on a platform that includes calling on the European Union to lift its embargo on some Chinese goods.
"In theory anyone 18 or over can run for a seat in parliament, but that is just theory," said Cheung.
"For too long, important decisions which affect the future of young people have been made for us, without any representation from young people," he said.
The 2009 European Parliament election is set to be the biggest transnational poll in history. Almost 500 million European citizens in 27 countries are eligible to vote from June 4 to 7, electing 736 members of the European Parliament for a five-year term.
If Cheung manages to garner 150,000 votes he will win one of the eight seats up for grabs in the London region.
And Cheung may benefit from the 200,000 ethnic Chinese people in the constituency.
But many say the indifference of many in the local Chinese community to politics will prove a hurdle for him.
Still, many Chinese residents have decided to support Cheung's bid for office.
A number of Chinese organizations vowed at a press conference on Thursday to help Cheung, said a press release issued by Cheung's campaign group.
A campaign calling for supporters to donate money toward Cheung's bid has already succeeded in paying for his 5,000-pound candidature fee.
"Steven is very able and familiar with political affairs, despite his young age," said Christine Lee, a lawyer and founder of the campaign to support Cheung.
"This is a big step for British Chinese as well as for European Chinese. We have stayed silent for over 150 years and it is important we have our voice heard," she said.