Algonquin Times writer Arty Sarkisian Photo credit: Alex Lambert

I was talking to an international student from China a few weeks ago. That was right after the world got excited about the mysterious balloons.

I wanted to ask him a question. The question one had to ask in the circumstances. It could either go very well or not go at all.

“What kind of cartoons are you guys watching back home?”

Mike Hong, a first-year accounting student has told me about The Stories of Avanti – the cartoon he had “kind of watched.” It’s about a man named Nasreddin, who was taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor. Basically, it’s the Chinese Robin Hood.

The number of international students almost doubled in the past academic year. All of them have different backgrounds, childhoods and experiences. But usually, instead of asking, we interrogate.

We interrogate them on politics, human rights and violations of human rights.

Some of you interrogated poor Hong as if he was the one responsible for the tanks smashing people on Tiananmen square in 1989.

I am sure we would have left him alone if he wasn’t “too Hong.”

We claim we want to get Hong’s perspective and learn something, but usually, we just want to hear him agree.

“Hey Mike, what do you think about the balloons?”

Mike has to answer. He can’t be silent. As a Chinese person, he certainly has an opinion, right? He will certainly agree with us, because why wouldn’t he, right? We are right, right?

Even if we are not, Mike Hong will agree with us anyway. He is a Chinese person desperately trying to be Canadian.

But it feels like he will never be Canadian enough.

Fifty years from now, we’ll still be looking not in but at his eyes, not asking but interrogating why on earth the Chinese government is acting so Chinese.

However, I will remind you then, and I am reminding you now, it wasn’t Mike Hong who sent the balloons to Canadian airspace. He did not interfere in Canadian elections. And most importantly, he wasn’t the one who banned Winnie the Pooh in China. So, back off and ask him about the Chinese Robin Hood. Hong has a lot to say.