Chinese association honors Mayor McDavid, prepares for foreign delegation

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | 9:24 p.m. CDT; updated 11:38 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

*Correction: Hsiao-Mei Wiedmeyer is one of the founders of Columbia Friends of China. An earlier version of this story misstated the extent of her role in creating the organization.

COLUMBIA — The Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars held its annual inauguration at City Hall Wednesday afternoon and honored Mayor Bob McDavid's support for an organization that serves the interests of Columbia's Chinese community. This was the first time the event had been held at the city's government center.

The association's new executive members were also recognized at the event, which served as an opportunity for local Chinese organizations to convene.

McDavid was given honorary member status from the association and a teacup made of china as a gift for his support of the group. The mayor spoke of maintaining friendship between China and America through cultural exchanges, such as the arrival of a Chinese delegation from the Laoshan District of Qingdao this fall.

Qingdao has been one of Columbia's sister cities since 2006, but needs to be reinstated, according to city policy. McDavid said the Laoshan delegates will visit Columbia between Oct. 23 and Nov. 4 to discuss topics of common interest between the two cities.

Association president and MU student Tong Gao said it was a great honor to have their annual inauguration at city hall, in the presence of the mayor.

"We hope the participation of the mayor in the ceremony can strengthen the link between the Chinese community and the city of Columbia," Gao said in Chinese.

Gao invited McDavid to speak at the inauguration when she ran into him awhile ago outside an administrative office while on her way to pick up invitations for the Laoshan delegates.

"I can still remember the answer he gave me with one word — absolutely," Gao said.

The inauguration was also an opportunity for Chinese people to socialize.

*Hsiao-Mei Wiedmeyer, secretary and one of the founders of Columbia Friends of China, said the ceremony was a good opportunity for the association to break out of campus life and get involved with the community.

Columbia Friends of China has sponsored the sister city relationship between Columbia and Qingdao since May 2006, according to the city's website.

Michael Wang, president of the Mid-Missouri Chinese Association, said he thinks the inauguration promotes American-Chinese cultural exchanges.

"It promotes friendship between associations, too," Wang said.

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