The profile picture of newly elected British lawmaker Alan Mak.
Art Conaghan—Art Conaghan Photography/Alan Mak Press Centre
By Kevin McSpadden
May 8, 2015

On Friday, Alan Mak became the first Briton from a Chinese background to be elected to the nation’s parliament, though he doesn’t appear particularly keen to dwell on this fact or the historical circumstances of his heritage.

“Ethnicity and heritage should play no part in this election. I think these groups — Chinese for Labour and so on — are putting too much emphasis on ethnicity,” he said in an interview with Hong Kong’s Post Magazine published Sunday.

The 31-year-old politician easily dismissed challenger John Perry, winning more than 51% of the vote to represent the southern city of Havant — located just offshore in the the English Channel.

Born in York, Mak’s parents fled communist China in the 1960s and on his website he says his family history made him “cherish Conservative values because my family know first-hand how tough life is without them, and how precious our freedoms are.”

But despite the over 426,000 ethnic Chinese living in Britain, according to the 2011 census, Mak does not embrace having his name placed alongside other trailblazing lawmakers such as Bernie Grant, Paul Boeteng and Diane Abbot (the first Black MPs elected in 1987) or the first openly gay MP Chris Smith (elected in 1983).

“If the [Conservative Friends of the Chinese] and Chinese for Labour think I am going to be representing every Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean — and there are many in my constituency — they are mistaken,” he said in the Post interview. “I am not standing for the Chinese population of Britain. I am standing for the people of Havant and my country.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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