Fact Check: Is Boris Johnson Right About Harry Potter?

London’s mayor has compared the UK and China’s relationship to that between Harry Potter and Cho Chang. Let’s look at the FACTS.

China Daily / Reuters

2. Talking to students at Peking University, Boris Johnson turned to the Harry Potter universe as an example of “the cultural interpenetration between Britain and China”:

And who according to JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels, was Harry Potter’s first girlfriend? Who is the first person he kisses? That’s right, Cho Chang - who is a Chinese overseas student at Hogwarts school.

Ladies and gents I rest my case. I don’t think I need to argue any further, that is the future of Britain and of London.

3. Here’s the issue: Boris Johnson is simply wrong.

Cho Chang is not an “overseas student” at Hogwarts, Boris. JK Rowling never describes her as that. As far as we can tell, she’s British-Asian. She’s Scottish in the films, for goodness’ sake - the Scottish actress who played her, Katie Leung, used her natural accent. Indeed, it’s reported that JK Rowling specifically requested a Scottish accent for the character during the casting process.

5. Furthermore, we’re not sure it’s a great model for a closer relationship between Britain and China.

Cho and Harry’s “relationship” consists of her initially rejecting him for Cedric Diggory, them briefly coming together due to the shared trauma of Cedric’s murder, before the relationship quickly falls apart, they stop speaking to each other for ages, and she starts dating other boys. They both end up in relationships with other people.

This doesn’t sound like an ideal outcome, in geopolitical terms.

Here is a picture of Cho with Cedric at the Yule ball. In Boris Johnson’s metaphor, Cedric probably represents China’s growing trade ties and political influence with Africa. Or something.

7. Politicians: when dropping pop culture references into speeches, please check your facts.

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Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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