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The vote that shook up the world

Updated: 2021-11-20 08:07 ( China Daily )
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From top: John Lee (right) with his elder brother Corky in 1974; the Lee family opened their laundry shop in New York in the 1940s. Lee Yin Chuck (back row, second left), John Lee (middle row, second right), and his elder brother Corky Lee (back row, second right, in black suits). [Photo provided to China Daily]

These days Lee hangs on to his memories of the demonstration as he recalls his elder brother Corky, who died in New York in January aged 73 as a result of COVID-19. His dedication to photographing Asian Americans had led to a tribute in one newspaper calling his life "a ceaseless act of creative intervention in a history shaped by erasure".

"Corky documented the event with his camera, at a time when no one else had even thought of recording," John Lee says. "Corky himself visited China in 1972, as a member of the Asian American Student Travel Delegation."

It was in February of that year that president Richard Nixon visited China in what he would call "the week that changed the world".

"The PRC's success in its petition to be seen as the rightful spokesperson for China opened up not only diplomatic and other channels for the country, but also people's minds here," Lee says. "After that we slowly started to see Chinese flags in Chinatown."

Lee's father died aged 74 in 1982.

"My father always believed that neither could China be ignored, or America maintain her hegemony, for long," he says. "He was right. As for me, if I needed to do it (the demonstration) again, I would, aged 72."

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