Sunday, September 08, 2013

This Damsel in Distress Needs More Than Tea and Sympathy, though she is entitled to both.

CUP THAT CHEERS, but can it placate Aussie immigration controls?

MAY KING TSANG is a young woman from Bolton in Greater Manchester who has made a name for herself, and I'd say a good one, in the Antipodes, having stepped out of her previous role as an  IT  instructor in order to bring sophistication-seeking Aussies the fine art of brewing, tasting and supping tea.

Tea in all its varieties, on which May King has become an expert and enthusiast, and on which she has built a business. Tea for your health, and tea as in tea parties, tea for which "everything stops", as we used to sing in the good old pre-Thatcher days when England was almost civilised, and tea in the tradition of the Chinese Gong Fu ceremony.

I.T. to High Tea?  The invention of Afternoon Tea in England is attributed to Anna Russel, the 18th century Duchess of Bedford, but as May King and friends show in this photograph, they can blend old and still older traditions. 

"Gong Fu Tea-tasting is an art form in which many Chinese people take their daily beverage.  Gong Fu or Kung Fu may conjure up images of martial arts but the translated words merely means the art of doing something well.  Drinking tea is not just about the fluid intake but it’s about the admiration of the dry leaf, the aroma of the liquor (the liquid derived from the making of the tea) and, of course, in the final tasting of the tea.

 "Here is a little insight into what a Chinese Gong Fu Tea Ceremony entails.  This is my version of the Chinese Gong Fu Tea Ceremony which I call “Chinese Gong Fu Tea Ceremony with a Dash of Milk” as a tribute to my BBC (British Born Chinese) upbringing

As May King jokes, "Gong Fu or Kung Fu may conjure up images of martial arts..."
but I first met her in London through the anti-war movement. It was a wet and windy night in Wembley and we were the only two volunteers who turned up to leaflet outside Wembley Park tube for a meeting of the Stop the War Coalition.

Strangers in the night soon got along fine, as I discovered May King was from Bolton, just up the road from my home town Salford, and our shared greater Manchester imperviousness to the rain was reinforced by her cheerfulness and sense of humour. 

At this time May King was working as an IT instructor, and her job with the Swedish firm Ericsson took her out of the country sometimes, but I met her again at a fundraising quiz night in Willesden, and later with her partner Euan, also a tekkie, at the 'Skies Are Weeping' concert in Hackney (dedicated to Rachel Corrie). Each time I remember for her geniality and ready laughter. Right now she needs more than that resilient sense of humour.

I remember another friend telling me Euan and May King had wed in a Scottish castle (though they started married life in the less noble London Borough of Hackney).  That choice of venue might show their romantic imagination, but along with creativity May King has kept her common sense and feet on the earth. "Whilst we all love tea many questions are poised with accompanying bold statements and at times we often forget that our own opinions may not be held by others.  I was brought up in a working class background; my parents didn’t have two pennies to rub together.  I was also brought up in a Chinese household which meant no hoighty-toighty-ness; simple as you like with no fuss.  These two influences have also lent themselves into my business."

The lass from Bolton certainly seems to have carved out her own niche since traveling via Brent (and Hackney) with her spouse to Brisbane. Invitations to speak at food trade fairs, worldwide contacts exchanging tea lore, a Facebook page turning into a group promoting Queensland businesses and training. Seeing her enthusiastic and colourfully illustrated postings about different teas and fresh travels, one could not help but share her joy and wish her continued success and happiness.

But starting after a change in her personal circumstances, May King has also had an albatross hovering over her in the shape of the authorities wanting to take away her visa, and permission to remain in Australia. I had noticed lately that she seemed a little preoccupied, not her usual jolly self, even slower to laugh at my jokes. It seems that having been persuaded to extend her time once, the authorities have returned to the visa topic again, so that just when everything seemed to be going well and Queensland society to have accepted May King with pleasure as one of its own, she could have only days to start packing her bags and get thrown out.

Why? I know nothing about Australian immigration laws, apart from the news that after Labour and "Liberal" leaders competed in inhumanity, arguing whether to sink boats or send people to Papua New Guinea, the country has been rewarded with a government not unlike our own. But I had not heard of any hoarding vans parading Brisbane as one did through Brent, telling people to "Go Home".    
What has May King Tsang done wrong?  She has not, so far as I am aware, committed any crime. She is not even unemployed or taking benefits. She has not been peddling drugs, unless Lapsang Souchong has been reclassified. Like most immigrants, in Australia or here, far from taking anything away from society she is giving it something, in more ways than one. In fact, I'd say May King Tsang   is the sort of person any society should be glad to have, and I only question whether Australia, particularly Queensland, deserves her!  But my prejudices apart, May King Tsang deserves the right to stay and pursue her career, I hope my friends in Australia and all fair minded people there will agree and give her support.

  May King makes appeal

Online Petition:

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