Richmond MP regrets wearing 'communist' scarf at flag raising event

Steveston-Richmond East MP Joe Peschisolido says he regrets wearing a red scarf — which critics say is a recognized symbol of the communist struggle — at a Chinese flag-raising ceremony in Vancouver last Friday.

Joe Peschisolido says he wasn't aware the scarf is viewed as symbol of communist repression

MP for Steveston-Richmond East, Joe Peschisolido, pictured on the far left, said had he known what the scarf symbolized, he would not have worn it. (Twitter)

Joe Peschisolido, MP for Steveston-Richmond East, says he regrets wearing a red scarf — which critics say is a recognized symbol of the communist struggle — at a Chinese flag-raising ceremony in Vancouver on Friday.

The event was a celebration of the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Peschisolido attended the ceremony alongside Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang.

Both have since come under fire from opponents of the communist government for both their participation in the event and the wearing of the red scarves.

Speaking to the CBC today, Peschisolido said the scarf was given to him by an organizer of the event.

He said he was told it was a symbol of 5,000 years of Chinese culture and civilization.

"In hindsight and on reflection, I should not have done that, and I regret doing that — but that's how it occurred," said Peschisolido.

"I now know that, for many people, it's a very painful signal or symbol based on what occurred — the tragic events that happened during the cultural revolution."

Backlash growing against ceremony

Peschisolido said while he regrets wearing the scarf, he doesn't regret attending the event.

The MP acknowledged there are concerns regarding free speech and human rights in China but said it's important to engage the country to try to elicit change.

"I understand the criticism ... there are folks who feel genuine pain; however, if you want to change things, you can't close your eyes to the situation — you have to deal with it," said Peschisolido.

"If you want to change the inner workings of any country, you need to engage — and that's what we're doing right now."

Meanwhile,outrage is growing among members of Vancouver's Chinese-Canadian community who don't support the communist government.

The Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values is demanding an explanation for why the event was held on the steps of Vancouver City Hall. 

The group held a rally today at city hall calling for Jang to apologize and resign.

"We don't think you represent the city of Vancouver or the values that we believe in," said Meena Wong, a former Vancouver mayoral candidate, at the rally.

"When I saw the flag and then the red scarf, it was a trigger for me ... it brought back a lot of painful memories," said Wong, who was born in China and grew up during the cultural revolution.

"My family being raided by the red guards, I was beaten in school by youth wearing the red scarves. So you can imagine what it was like."

CBC News contacted Kerry Jang to comment, but did not hear back.