|Written by Lachlan|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2007|
Section Six: General
6.1 China’s Silk Heritage in the Otago Museum Author: Marjery Blackman
6.2 A Potters Life Author: Wailin Wong Elliot
6.3 The New Zealand Chinese Association (Inc.) Author: Esther Fung
6.5 The Chinese Medical Association Author: Allen Liang
6.6 Researching Chinese New Zealand Individuals and their Families – Some Guidelines and Sources. Author: Nigel Murphy
6.7 Asia Dynamic: An Ethnic minority Television Programme Author: Robin Kingsley-Smith
6.8 Early History of the Chinese in Vanuatu 1844-1944 Author: Bill Willmott
6.9 Experience of the First Chinese MP in New Zealand Author: Pansy Wong
6.1 China’s Silk Heritage in the Otago Museum
The Otago Museum, in Dunedin, has been fortunate to have built up a collection of over 250 items of Chinese Costume and Textiles during the last eighty years. For the first time an exhibition of the major part of this collection was on display for four months during March-June 1998 under the title "Emperor's Court to Village Festival". From court ceremonial costumes to village wedding garments, accessories to dress, children's garments and ceremonial hangings, the exhibition illustrated aspects of the last 100 years of China's final Imperial Dynasty, the Ch'ing (Qing), 1644-1911.
A remarkable aspect of the collection is that all the items, which includes such a comprehensive range, have been donated. Initially it was through links with Otago men and women who went to China as missionaries that much of the collection was given. Miss Mary Moore went to the Ichang area of China in 1896 with the Church of Scotland's foreign mission to teach women and children. Her extensive collection was given in 1923 and 1932. The establishment of the Canton Village Mission by the New Zealand Presbyterian Church in 1902 increased the Otago-China links and items from that source came through Knox Church, Dunedin, Miss Annie Hancock in 1919 and 1920 and later the Rev. William Hewitson. In 1920 the Otago and Southland Chinese Association provided funds to the museum for a display case. Over the next fifty years this Association was generous with financial support for some valuable purchases not only of Chinese textiles but also of other Chinese artifacts for the museum. A later donor was Mrs Maud Cocker Brown also from Dunedin who worked with the London Missionary Society in the Amoy area.
The collection continued to build with occasional donations from others including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London who directed English collectors to the Otago Museum during the 1960s. Early in 1998 the museum was grateful to receive a fine group of costumes and textiles collected by Miss Marjorie Monaghan who was with the Church Missionary Society in the Peking Area.
Most of the costume and textiles in the exhibition were made from silk and extensively embroidered in fine silk threads. Silk has held a major place in China’s economy for more than 5000 years and to help illustrate this a small natural history display of silk worms feeding on mulberry leaves was included. A small number of the items were made from cotton or ramie. A photographic display from the archives of the New Zealand Presbyterian Church helped to establish the background links.
The exhibition was set out in three main areas, the costume and accessories for court ceremonial wear which featured five dragon robes, the informal costume of the officials and wealthy merchants which was particularly rich and colourful. This area illustrated the differences between the women’s costume of the Han Chinese who wore skirts and jackets and the Manchu women who wore full length robes. The third smaller area showed costume of the village people although the museum lacks truly rural peasant costume of the period. Further small displays featured children’s costume, some fine examples of embroidery and some pieces for domestic use. The exhibition was considerably enhanced by large richly coloured hangings. These included a very fine birthday hanging celebrating a much respected woman on her 71st birthday . It is dated 1829.
This paper was presented with colour slides of the exhibition by the Otago Museum to document the exhibition.
Reference: Emperor’s Court to Village Festival. Marjery Blackman, Otago Museum, 1998.
6.2 A Potters Life
Listening to the conference speakers this weekend and to the strength of feeling Chinese feel for their race and their ancestral country of origin, as a New Zealand born second generation New Zealand Chinese, I have to admit to feeling more an Aotearoan than having strong feelings of race that I once had in my growing-up years.
As one of the speakers coming at the end of the speechifying part of ASCDAPI which is already making a history of its own, I am going to relate my own history in its making, albeit a potted version.
Strange how the little things in life make one change direction. If you don’t grab the moment with both hands it may slip through your fingers. A tiny thought as I watched a friend fashion a small clay dish for what in my schooldays was termed "prelim", preliminary to her entering Elim, the University of Auckland School of Fine Arts, I thought: I would like to be able to do that. If she can, why can’t I? Lateral thinking, I like to think, is one of my strengths. So I asked the Art Mistress, May Hardcastle, who taught my friend if she could teach me how to pot in my lunch break. We didn’t take art if we took an academic course in those days. School libraries are wonderful places, especially if you were like us Chinese from a working class background and not many books or literary encouragement at home. I found a book in the library shelves which excited me tremendously. It was called "A Potter’s Book" by an English potter, Bernard Leach. He, along with his Japanese friend Shoji Hamada, had set up a pottery in St Ives, Cornwall and started a revival of studio pottery in Britian. Later when I came across another book called "Fifth Chinese Daughter" by Jade Snow Wong who was brought up in Chinatown, San Francisco, it spurred me on even more. Jade Snow Wong became a potter in the face of her parents’ disapproval and made a successful career as a potter. I didn’t aspire to those heights of making a living from pottery but I did want to learn how to make a good pot.
It never occurred to me that I had an enquiring mind. Chinese children like their European counterparts of this time were to be seen and not heard. The work ethic and to always be seen working was the norm. Laughter, fun and enjoyment in the workplace was taboo. Therefore school became a better place to be than home. One could read novels there –albeit in the school library at lunchtime. In these lunch breaks and after school there were clubs one could join giving freedom from the restrictive life of constant work at home and in the shop. The art mistress at my grammar school let me use her art room. She got clay for me and arranged for my pots to be fired in the Department of Education Art Department and so started me along the clay road.
There were no fulltime professional studio potters in New Zealand in the late 1950s when I started potting and as far as I can ascertain I was the first Chinese girl in New Zealand to take that step of making pottery my profession in the late 1960s. I had never heard anything about pottery night classes when I was a schoolgirl but my art teacher friend and mentor encouraged me to attend a summer pottery school run by the Adult Education Department of the University of Auckland. Here I would learn how to throw, glaze and fire pots. Being too shy to go alone, I dragged my long suffering elder sister along to keep me company and bolster my courage. Heaven knows how we got out of working in our father’s fruit and vegetable shop for a whole week of the school holidays but we did. It was heady stuff getting one’s hands dirty with mud when you couldn’t bear to get your fingers dirty weighing potatoes or scrubbing carrots.
It was during a summer school that I first met the well known New Zealand potters Barry Brickell, Len Castle and Helen Mason – the top potters of the day. They were all very protective and supportive of me – a shy Chinese girl – and gave me much encouragement and help to see me through those days of the firm autocratic parental control.
The Chinese work ethic was very strong and one relaxed only in sleep. So pottery and any allied arts which were not essential to one’s upkeep were rather frowned upon in Chinese households of those days and I had to resort to slightly underhand methods of achieving my potting ends.
In my early potting days I looked to my ethnic background for ideas for my work. After all it was what I understood best and the shapes were quite traditional. For decoration I would often flute the outside of bowls or incise Chinese characters on the sides of pots. It was very satisfying not to be forced \into doing something you didn’t want to do and lose yourself in creative work.
Handbuilding pots was always extremely satisfying, or had to be, as I didn’t have a wheel or workshop in those early days and would resort to potting in my bedroom for privacy and hiding the work under the bed if I heard my father’s footsteps coming up the hall. Naturally that limited the size of any work I could make! So surreptiously I took over an old shed in the yard, clearing a space to work, getting Barry Brickell to design me a kick wheel and build a kiln against a brick wall at the far end of our yard. As I have said there were no fulltime potters in New Zealand at that time and certainly none of Chinese descent but the pottery movement was gradually becoming strong, influenced by the Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada movement. By the early 1960s a few fulltime potters had emerged and by the late 1960s fulltime potters were in abundance. Folk who were once hobby potters threw up their jobs and professions to become fulltime potters and live an alternative life style. They manage to make an adequate living and this was also helped by the government’s restriction policy on overseas imported pottery.
In Auckland in the late 1950s and early 1960s there were only two major pottery outlets in the city but by the end of the 1960s privately owned and co-operative craft shops had sprung up all over the country.
In November 1968, New Zealand’s first craft co-operative opened an historic flour mill in the city. It was called Brown’s Mill after the former mill owners and had 10 shareholding stallholders. The co-operative opened only two days a week, Friday and Saturday, with the artists marketing their own wares. It was an extremely successful enterprise, for those times, coming during a period when no shops opened on Saturdays and everything closed for the weekend (except for Chinese fruit and vegetable shops). Browns Mill enabled the craftsman to make their entire living by these means rather than wholesaleing work to other craft shops around the country.
During this period I was potting in Helen Mason’s studio in Nihotupu in the Waitakere ranges and selling with her at Brown’s Mill, giving up my work as a secretary and making pottery my fulltime profession.
Pottery and other allied crafts flourished in New Zealand in the 1970s. Craft shops abounded in town and country and displayed the current trends which were still much influenced by the works of British potters. When I first started potting, stoneware pottery with its celedon greens and tenmoku brown again influenced by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada was the norm. Stoneware is fired to temperatures between 1250 and 1300 degrees centigrade. When the 1990s came along there were earthenware and bright colour to go with modern décor. Earthenware is low fired by comparison to stoneware and porcelain at temperatures between 1050 to 1200. Nowadays the terms ceramics and ceramicists have become fashionable whereas prior to this we all were just studio potters. With the removal of import restrictions today there is a great influx of cheap imported wares from the Asain countries and potters are finding it very difficult to compete with the flooded market. Many potters are returning to their former or other occupations and are mostly potting part time if at all. Things do run in cycles and it may be some time before the local market picks up again. It is much harder today for younger potters and artists starting out. The cost of setting up a studio with workshop space, electric wheels (we only used a kick wheel) and buying gas or electric kilns to fire the wares is exorbitant. Students today study pottery at Polytech and some come out with huge debts to pay and no money to set themselves up, let alone find a market for their wares.
In the early 1970s and recently married, I moved from the pottery scene of Titirangi in Auckland where I had been living and working – to Coromandel. There we dug our own clay, gathered sand from local streams and fired kilns with wood instead of diesel and oil. Today it is not so possible to have dipfeed oil fired kilns with their oily black smoke that float over to the neighbour’s clean washing.
In the late 1950s when so much work was done by trial and error, we would experiment with local clays retrieved from building sites and earthworks, save our woodashes from the copper in the washhouse and prepare them by washing, sieving and drying them out before mixing them into glaze recipes. Potters shared information and helped each other like a big friendly family. Then we were hobbyists, not professional potters.
A potter made useful domestic objects or things people could recognise and understand. Clay was not distorted into forms that no longer looked like the material from which it was meant for but something that should have been made for from a different medium. Clay is malleable and sympathetic to touch.
There is great satisfaction in throwing a plain domestic form on the wheel, glazing it with a glaze mixed yourself and fired in a pile of bricks you call your kiln. Competition today in the form of Fletcher Brown built kilns and the like have influenced ceramicists to stretch clay into limits where the results becomes quite unclay like – beautiful maybe to the beholder but often unusable – funky, I think is the modern word for it. This maybe mirrors American trends which have now crept into pottery worldwide. As to the Chinese, I find the beauty of the early Chinese pottery from the Han, Sung and Tang dynasties, with their simplicity of form, infinitely satisfying and more exciting than later dynasties with the form becoming slightly decadent and extremely highly decorated. Potters from the earlier periods made pots to fill a need and not only as an object for admiration.
Over the past thirty years since I have been potting fulltime I have moved away from making domestic work and am now making more sculptural forms. The ideas for works come from the observation of children and people around me and my life in general. This year I exhibited a few of my early works from the 1950s and 1960s in the China Week exhibition of New Zealand born Chinese Artists, held here in Dunedin in March and it has made me look again with fresh eyes at my early work which was so influenced by my upbringing. Although I left a lot of my Chinesedom behind me when I married a ‘say yun’ (European) one cannot deny one’s ethnic background and I believe it has always influenced and affected my work whether I was aware of it or not. I am now returning again to similar shapes made when I first started potting and finding eminent satisfaction in the forms and patterning.
Although I am working in the craft field I have every cause to feel thankful to my roots. My father was a businessman through and through but now I must admit that for all his autocratic ways he must have turned a blind eye to my early potting activities. He was too shrewd for me to have fooled him completely. Now as a craftsman I have to be my own businessman and salesman as well as producer of goods. No doubt the Chinese background in business and marketing has stood be in good stead. My husband and I work from home and have a showroom in our house as well as selling through exhibitions and the Driving Creek Railway and Pottery where I have my studio. In the early 1970s we moved to the small township of Coromandel, a drive of about two and a half hours from Auckland and were able to set up our separate studios with minimal cost. Today’s aspiring craftsman find it difficult to get themselves started. An old shed with a kick wheel and a pile of bricks for a kiln were all that was needed, then craftshop owners would come beating on your door to buy wares as soon as they left the kilns. It was all so easy in those days.
Perhaps from a Chinese immigrant’s point of view, success is measured in monetary terms but satisfaction for me is the richness of a way of life I found through becoming a potter.
6.3 The New Zealand Chinese Association (inc.)
The New Zealand Chinese Association aims to unite the Chinese in New Zealand, to render them support and assistance and to safeguard their legal rights. The history of the Association is long and colourful; I will present a very brief overview of this history.
There has been a Chinese presence in NZ since the middle of the 19th Century , but as a people they enjoyed few rights and were a largely unprotected community. For a period in those times they were permitted the privilege of becoming naturalized as NZ citizens, but this was stopped in 1908. This restriction continued to be enforced up till 1951.
In 1890 the Chinese community wrote to the Prime Minister of NZ asking him to urge the Qing court to send a consul to help take care of their interests. Eventually after many years of negotiations the first consul Huang Ronliang (Wong Yung Liang), assumed office in October 1908. In the short 8 months of his time in NZ, he recognized the need for the Chinese community to organize themselves in forming an association. His sponsorship and contribution of £10 was enthusiastically responded to and eventually a Chinese Association was set up in Wellington in March 1909. Interestingly, among its activities were training courses in Chinese and English.
(According to Joe Yue Sing, the Association was always led and run by the incumbent Chinese Consul.)
It was not until the arrival of the consul Gwai Zhe that the even tenor of the Association was disturbed and this arose over conflicting loyalties when in 1916 Yuan Shi Kai (Yuan Sei Oi) proclaimed himself Emperor. The Consul called a meeting of the Chinese Association in an attempt to persuade the community to join with him in supporting Yuan Shi Kai. A fracas ensued as the community did not wish to give up the new Republic to return to an autocratic monarchy. His successor, Li Guang Heng (Lee Kwong Hong) was no improvement and when the landlord took back the building in 1924, that Association stopped functioning.
In the meantime, other societies such as the Chee Kung Tong and the Tung Meng Hui were formed and also county organizations such as the Tung Jung Association, the Poon Fah Society and later the Seyip Society, these latter three acted like friendly societies (their functions included making friendly contacts, mutual support, resolving disputes, advancing charities and public welfare and working for the interests of the Chinese community.)
When consul Wu Qinxun (Ng Ken Fun) arrived in 1928, he wanted all the different organizations to come together in one association in order to reduce friction, avoid clashes and improve unity and harmony. This one overall association of Chinese in New Zealand which he called the All New Zealand Chinese Association was formed in Wellington. It was not very successful so that other local associations were formed, such as the Otago and Southland Chinese Association in 1936.
We come now to the start of the Sino-Japanese war (with the Marco Polo Bridge incident) on 7th July 1937. The New Zealand Chinese Association in Wellington and the Otago & Southland Chinese Association jointly requested the then Chinese Consul (later Consul General), Wang Feng, to arrange a meeting of all the Chinese nationals to discuss means of supporting the homeland in their struggle. On September 26th 1937, 41 representatives from 15 regions met in Wellington. It was decided that each region present would establish a branch association which was to be subordinate to the central committee of the NZCA, thus increasing their effectiveness through concerted action. The raising of donations for the war effort presented difficulties and problems. How to do it?
It was resolved that bonds could be bought through the Consulate and that all donations should be handed over to the central committee of the NZCA for direct remittance to the Chinese government. The rules were: Chinese employers were required to contribute 10 shillings per week and employees 10% of their weekly wage, and those without permanent residence permits 5% of their wage, until the war ended. These were the fixed amounts for long term contribution, actual contributions turned out to be far greater. Actually it came to £230, 920. The Chinese numbers in the census figures for 1936 were but 2 432 men and 511 women, and in 1945, there were 4,311 men and 1,254 women. This effort was recognized by the then Chinese government that on a per capita basis NZ ranked 1st among nationals abroad. Moreover, this figure does not include the national salvation bond and the construction bond purchases.
The war was won in 1945 and it was felt that in order to consolidate the organization, the acquisition of its own premises would be desirable, and so it was resolved that the contributions should continue to the end of the year 1946 and the proceeds used to buy a building in the name of the Association. Further donations from the community were also solicited. A person of great influence over all this time was Consul Yue Henry Jackson (Yue Zhishen); he worked tirelessly on behalf of the Chinese people and did much to develop the friendship between China and New Zealand. He generously contributed £1 000 to show his support for the building project. For all his work in helping the community he remains greatly respected and indeed revered to this day.
During the Sino-Japanese war, the Association published "The New Zealand Chinese Weekly News". No mean feat when one considers the technology of the day. The "Chronicle Weekly" as it came to be known in Chinese, ceased publication on 13th August 1946. Meanwhile the Auckland Branch published the "Q Sing Times". The Consulate was asked by the Association to help negotiate with the Government to permit family members in China to enter as war refugees. They won consent on condition that the Association would act as guarantor. In the course of time immigration issues, such as fingerprinting on entry and departure from NZ, and the visa requirement from Chinese wishing to travel to Australia (when this rule did not apply to any other community), were raised with Government and after much conferring and discussion these inequities were removed.
In 1948, the first of the NZCA annual sports tournaments was held in Wellington. These tournaments were to be hosted by the Branch Associations in the four main centres by rotation . Originally October 10 or 'Double Ten' was an official holiday for the Chinese community, shops were shut and people gathered to celebrate, and so the Sports were held on this day. In recent years for pragmatic reasons the tournament is now held over the Easter weekend. More recently a cultural element has been introduced during the tournament - the principle event in this area has been a concert providing the opportunity for seeing some of the many and varied talent in the performing arts within the community. This year (1998) the Golden Jubilee of the Sports tournament was celebrated at Easter time with the Wellington Branch hosting.
The Association encourages scholarship and community involvement by the young people in the community. At present it provides 3 Scholarships to assist talented High School leavers in tertiary study, and recognizes the achievement of excellence in the School Certificate examination. Chinese language classes are also encouraged with grants to local schools sponsored by the Branch Associations. This year, the Association has adopted a Language Policy and when the University Entrance Bursary Examination in Modern Standard Chinese comes into effect in 1999, will be offering an award to the student with the highest achievement in that subject. A prerequisite for applying for all these awards is of course, membership in a Branch Association. The recognition of achievement in Modern Standard Chinese as recognized by the Government in no way diminishes the importance of Mother tongue retention and maintenance. The Association encourages the development of programmes in Cantonese or Hokkien or other Chinese languages. To encourage understanding and knowledge of Chinese language and culture, the Association organizes the annual Guangzhou camp in December-January, where young people whose origins lie in the Guangdong province are invited to spend time learning the language and seeing some aspects of Chinese life and culture. The trip includes visits to a few other centres or cities of interest. e.g. Beijing and Hong Kong.
With the changing times and developments a new constitution was introduced in 1996, and one of the changes resulting was the restructuring of the Executive Committee. This now comprises members of the executive committee coming directly from each Branch Association while the four executive officers (President, Vice-president, Secretary, Treasurer) are elected by the Conference delegates. This has meant that Branch Associations now feel more involved in the making of decisions.
1. The Poll-tax in New Zealand: A research paper. Nigel Ralph Murphy
Commissioned by the New Zealand Chinese Association (Inc.) 1994
2. A Guide to Laws and Policies Relating to the Chinese in New Zealand. 1871 - 1996. Nigel Ralph Murphy
Commissioned by the New Zealand Chinese Association (Inc.) 1997
3. The Overseas Chinese in New Zealand Stuart William Greif, Asia Pacific Press. 1974
4. A Brief History of the Overseas Chinese in New Zealand Joe Yue Sing, New Zealand Twin Star. 1996
Addendum: The Future for The New Zealand Chinese Association (Inc.)
The views I am about to present are the views of the present Executive and President Harvey Wu). The Chinese community over the recent years has changed and will continue to change with changes in immigration policies.
Whereas in previous times the community was fairly homogeneous, having come largely from the counties close to Guangzhou city, the community now is largely composed of recent arrivals from Taiwan, Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries. These newer migrants are urban, professionally qualified, entrepreneurial and in many cases, affluent. There are language differences also, for many of these people the Mother Tongue may be Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien or other dialects. The problem is how to knit all this diversity together.
The New Zealand Chinese Association aims to remain the main Chinese organization in New Zealand.
There are two possible scenarios: Either the structure remains as it is, or it becomes a federation in which all groups have representation.
If we consider the first option, then local Branch associations will have as their members all the separate Chinese groups within the district, i.e. the local Branch becomes a loose federation.
On the other hand, should the NZCA itself be restructured as a federation then all the groups would become members. For ease of management and efficiency, the executive committee or council size would of necessity be limited. This may mean that all the diverse groups will not be directly represented, but some means to allow them to raise issues should be provided, and they should be able to fully participate at the annual national conference in order that their views may be expressed. The local branch associations would change from their present form and then become another Chinese group member.
As stated earlier, these scenarios are only the views and projections of the present Executive. It is of course desirable that the NZCA shapes itself to function with the purpose of serving the community in whatever needs that may arise in changing circumstances.
For many immigrant students and indeed New Zealand born students from migrant families from non English speaking backgrounds (NESB), the learning of English has provided a real challenge. This has been the case for our "old migrants" and continues to be a formidable – but not insurmountable – barrier for "new migrants".
Our migrant families come from many different parts of the world (see Appendix 4 1)
Students from such diverse political, social and cultural backgrounds contribute in many positive ways to a school’s educational environment. They enrich the learning of other students, provide meaningful insights for the teachers and enliven the whole school community. Indeed by adding more "strands" to the intertwining of Maori and Pakeha they help to create that rich "multicultural mix" which is New Zealand today.
The teaching of English to NESB students2 also presents a huge challenge to the 860 mainstream schools currently funded to meet their students’ English language needs. Where these needs are identified, schools are required, under the National Education Guidelines, to make adequate and effective provision for English language support.3
The Ministry of Education has assisted schools in working towards addressing the needs of NESB students requiring ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) support through the provision of funding, professional development contracts, developing and producing resources, and ongoing research.
New funding policy
Research literature has shown that for an adult it takes at least 5 to 7 years to acquire a second language. For children starting school in the junior classes, the time it takes to catch up to their peers is usually fairly quick. This can be greatly assisted by early intervention ESOL programmes.
On the other hand students who come into classes at the secondary level will find it much more difficult. Balancing language learning while coming to grips with other subject areas is problematical. Many will not catch up while at school and will need to have ESOL support while at the tertiary level.
Whatever the school age of the student the government’s new policy is to provide some additional resourcing (over and above their regular entitlement) for at least 3 years at a maximum of $500 per student per year. In 1998 this costs the government $8 million per year and includes $1.5 million from the New Zealand Immigration Service provided through the New Settlers’ levy.
Currently 23,000 students receive additional funding. I have enclosed some interesting facts and figures about our ESOL students in Appendix 24. For example 74% of the students live in Auckland. One of the largest schools in Auckland has 700 NESB students generating funding regular funding for the school with 350 students attracting additional ESOL funding. 265 of the students funded are Chinese from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.
The Ministry also provides extra funds to children of refugee families. Many refugee children have lived all their lives in camps and have had no schooling. There are 844 who have received assistance. This includes quota refugees, who have a six week induction course at the Mayfare Refugee Centre, as well as reunification and spontaneous refugees. The main ethnic groups are: Somali, Kurd, Ethiopian and Cambodian.
Chinese Students in ESOL programmes
The Ministry holds individual profiles on the ESOL students regarding their date of birth, class level, country of birth, ethnicity, first language, date of entry into New Zealand, and ongoing assessment scores. There is also information on each school. This information when collated provides an invaluable resource for analysis and research.
In the last ten years Chinese students have been one of the key groups contributing to the influx of NESB students in schools. Today they make up about 25% of all ESOL students. From the database I have selected some information that might be of interest to you about Chinese students.5 (Refer to Appendix 3)
Currently there are 5561 Chinese students funded in 542 schools. 74% live in Auckland and 2% live in Dunedin. 43.5% come from Taiwan. Mainland China (with 26%) has now replaced Hong Kong with (17%) as the country with the second highest number of Chinese students. 8.6% are born in New Zealand. 68.8% of all students are Mandarin speaking and 31% speak Cantonese as their first language. Of those who give Mandarin as their first language there will be regional variations and probably a local dialect spoken as well.
The most interesting trend in my view is the large numbers from mainland China (including the government’s expansion of the quota of fee paying students from China to 4000 this year with the opportunity to apply for residency at the end of their study). I draw your attention again to the theme of this conference: "old migration new migration" China is once again becoming the main source. However, the difference is that the students are coming from all over China: Harbin, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming and inland places (such as Sian and Chengdu) where there have never been immigrants before.
Some of you will know Kathy Yuen, an experienced bilingual teacher teaching ESOL at a large secondary school in Auckland. Her concerns are that some students (and parents) were unrealistic in their academic expectations and this was causing undue emotional pressure on a considerable number of students at her school. This is something we will need to watch carefully – and have support systems in place which can be accessed by our schools.
Last week I surveyed eight schools in Auckland with high numbers of Chinese students to gain some useful observations from practising ESOL teachers. I have collated some of their comments and they can be found in Appendix 1. Some of the issues are not new but others may provoke thoughtful discussion.
There are concerns about those who have come as immigrants (both adults and children) to New Zealand with the inability to speak English well. For example I have employed on a casual basis for the last 3 terms a woman from Shanghai, China. She is a qualified engineer. She has been here two years and cannot find any permanent employment. I wrote her a reference but she still missed out on a job as a checkout operator at Pak n’ Save. She is probably overlooked because she speaks in "broken English" and with a strong accent.
The woman shared this little anecdote with me. She has one child who is eight years old. The other day the daughter came back from school and said "Mama the teacher has asked me to help (Mary) with her reading – and she is a "Kiwi". The mother misunderstood at first and thought her child was being helped – then she realised what she was saying.
Her English has developed so quickly that she was helping a New Zealand child with her reading. This pride in her daughter has made coming to New Zealand worthwhile.
Learning English for Chinese new immigrants is important. But let us not forget that some of our parents were very successful without learning any English. My mother came at the age of 39 and barely learnt a word of English to the day she died at the age of 90. Not learning English did not prevent her from living a rich, full and satisfying life.
I leave you with a quote from Amy Tan describing her mother’s English: "It has always bothered me that I can think of no way to describe it other than "broken" as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as if it lacked a certain wholeness and soundness. It limits people’s perceptions of the speaker. I know this because when I was growing up, I believed that my mother’s English reflected the quality of what she had to say. That is, because she expressed them imperfectly, I considered her thoughts imperfect."
Comments from 8 Auckland Schools with High Numbers of Chinese Students in ESOL Programmes.
The key issues in ESOL for Chinese students in their schools
Some comments from the newest group of Chinese Immigrants
Are there any trends emerging such as changing enrolment patterns?
Comments from Primary Schools of considerations for parents
INFORMATION FROM MINSTRY OF EDUCATION ABOUT CHINESE STUDENTS IN ESOL PROGRAMMES
Number of Chinese students in New Zealand Schools (by management centre)
Auckland 4,081 277
Hamilton 387 66
Lower Hutt 218 73
Wanganui 93 26
Christchurch 667 71
Dunedin 109 29
Total 5561 542
60% attend primary schools
40% attend secondary schools
Highest numbers of Chinese students for school(s) in each district:
Auckland 78, 77, 76 265, 197, 116,
Hamilton 29 24
Lower Hutt 10 11
Wanganui 11 8
Christchurch 38 113, 44
Dunedin 21 29
Country of Birth of Chinese Students
Hong Kong 988
New Zealand 484
Other countries 34
Taiwan, China, Malaysia, New Zealand
Hong Kong, China, New Zealand
Percentage of ESOL students: 25%
1 Ministry of Education ESOL database, Nov 1998
2 The total number of NESB students in our schools is over 62,000. Statistical data 1 July roll returns 1997 –now probably about 70,000 students
3 This is supported by the statement in The New Zealand Curriculum Framework (1993): "Provision will be made for those students whose first language is not English" (p10).
4 Ministry of Education ESOL database, Sep 1998
5 Ministry of Education ESOL database, November 1998
6.5 The Chinese Medical Association
During the Chinese New Year in 1988, a pharmaceutical company decided on a new initiative for continuing medical education. The event was a meeting to be held at the Village Chinese Restaurant in Newmarket, Auckland, and I was asked to deliver a talk about "Asthma Prevention and Treatment". Invitations were sent to all the Chinese general practitioners, specialists, hospital registrars and interns from Auckland, Hamilton and Whangarei.
The response to this initiative was very positive and to everybody's surprise, more than seventy Chinese practitioners plus most of their spouses turned up for the meeting. For the first time we realised that there were enough Chinese doctors in the area to hold such meetings, where we could keep up with medical progress, and at the same time share our common cultural background and extend the social network between many doctors and their families.
Dr Gam Lee was particularly enthusiastic about the establishment of a formal Chinese Medical Association. On June 22nd 1988, twenty-two registered medical practitioners of Chinese descent met at his home to realise this aim. Gam Lee had bought back from Canada the Constitution of the Toronto Chinese Medical Society. A steering group was formed to canvass this idea to Chinese doctors and arrangements were made for an inaugural General Meeting.
The first Clinical and General Meeting of the Auckland Chinese Medical Association was held on November 13th 1988 at the Mandarin Szechwan, a Chinese restaurant in Birkenhead. Dr David Fung, Consultant Neurologist from Wellington was invited to speak about the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. During this meeting, the first Executive Committee for the Association was elected. Dr Peter Wong, Orthopaedic Surgeon, was elected as the first President of the Association. The Association Newsletter was published in January 1989.
Since then there have been regular clinical dinner meetings with topics selected by the Executive Committee from the suggestions of members. In most of our clinical meetings an aspect of Chinese culture is presented. There are also informative news letters published regularly plus training workshops for interested parties. In the last ten years the Auckland Chinese Medical Association membership has grown to more than three hundred. One feature of the Auckland Chinese Medical Association which is different from most other Chinese Medical Associations is that membership is not only for doctors but is extended to students from the two medical schools in the form of student membership. Many student members have, after graduation, become staunch supporters of the association.
In 1992 a crisis of sorts loomed in the public press and local medical journals. There were hints of social engineering to reduce the number of Asian (particularly Chinese) Medical Students. An "interview" system had been put in place without prior notice nor consultation with the Chinese Community. As a result, the number of Chinese Medical Students accepted in the 1993 intake was suddenly halved compared with the previous years. As the total number of university entrants of Chinese descent had actually increased compared with previous years, it soon became apparent that the "interview" had a strong racial basis. An example was the case of one of the top students of Auckland Grammar School who was fluent in Chinese, English, French and German, yet rejected for Medical School acceptance because of lack of "language skills". Despite his case being taken up by the Auckland Grammar School Principal, the Auckland Medical School "Social Engineers" considered their decision to be final.
Subtle racial discrimination in the name of equity had became fact in the Auckland Medical School.
A similar situation was developing across the Tasman. The Chinese Medical Associations in Australia, however, were forewarned about the desire to reduce Chinese Medical Student intake. There were concern about fairness, transparency, and victimization among different Chinese Medical Associations in Australia. A meeting comprising all the major Chinese Medical Associations convened in Melbourne and the Auckland Medical Association was represented by Dr Thomas Doo and myself. A loose confederation of Chinese Medical Associations between the various Associations in Australia and New Zealand was formed, but because of different constitutions in different Associations we could not call ourselves a Federation and finally settled the legally acceptable title Australasian Council of Chinese Medical Associations.
The council's brief is to assist each individual Chinese Medical Association in the two countries to ensure that the selection of the Chinese medical students is fair, transparent and not radically biased. The council has the option of bringing the problems of each individual university into the public arena and international media if necessary, but has applied the traditional Chinese way of gentle pressure as the first principle. Through the combined efforts of the Auckland Chinese Medical Association and the Australasian Council of Chinese Medical Associations, the modification (though not totally transparent as yet) of regulations about student selection has been seen. The following year (1994) the intake of Chinese medical students returned to its normal figures again
We perceived the "Social Engineers" at the Auckland Medical School regarded the high achievement of Chinese students as due to their high marks in science subjects, with a perception that Chinese students do not participate in sporting activities or community service. New selection criteriae emphasized these non academic parameters and were announced in the public press. The perception of Chinese as "nerds" was certainly wrong. The Chinese students fared just as well and the student intake number to Auckland Medical School remained the same. The Auckland Chinese Medical Association is very proud of being able to achieve equity for Chinese students without having to go for the attack in the public arena or the media; a true test for the traditional subtle Chinese cultural ways of negotiation. We realise that as a group of Chinese Medical Practitioners we have political muscle, but we must use it very carefully.
In 1997 I was elected President of the Australasian Council of Chinese Medical Associations. In April 1998, we marked our tenth year of existence by hosting an Inaugural Scientific Conference jointly with the 4th Australasian Council of Chinese Medical Associations Scientific Conference. This was the most ambitious project the Associations had so far undertaken. More than one hundred and seventy participants from New Zealand, Australia and China participated in the conference, which was held at the Carlton Hotel. We were particularly proud that the majority of speakers were of Chinese descent, debunking the old perception of Chinese doctors being general practitioners, and proving that there are Chinese researches and specialists in leadership roles in our respective countries.
The other activities of the Auckland Chinese Medical Association can be briefly summarised as follows:
Continuing medical education remain the single most important activity of the Association. In 1994, through the efforts of Dr Lora Young, the Association succeeded in securing approved CME provider status from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. This means that points accumulated through attendance at the Association’s Clinical Meetings can count towards the RNZCGP re-accreditation programme. As this is accredited activity, lecturer’s can also accrue towards MOPS (Maintenance of Professional Standards) for speaking at such meetings.
Cultural maintenance is also a very important part of the Association especially for its younger members. Meetings also often feature cultural talks on various aspects of Chinese culture, and there are student career meetings with talks by GP’s and specialists.
The Association also donates elective scholarships to the University of Auckland School of Medicine to assist a sixth year student (not necessarily Chinese) towards his or her overseas elective, and sponsors the pioneering research about Chinese Immigrants in New Zealand conducted by Doctors Max Abbott, Si Wong, Ming Au, Wilson Young and Mr Maynard Williams. The Association further supports research by Professor Norman Sharp on risk factors associated with artherosclerosis in migrant Chinese compared with New Zealand-born Chinese, research by Dr Philip Wong on hepatitis, and research into ethnic differences in abortion.
Community services were performed as follows:
Health fairs in 1995 and 1996.
Participation in the Auckland Chinese Community Centre Chinese New Year Fairs and the Auckland Chinese Sport Club Anniversary Day picnics offering blood pressure/blood glucose checks and general health education.
Production of a series of health education talks on Chinese Radio.
Translation of patient information pamphlets into Chinese. This is an ongoing process with ever increasing numbers of pamphlets being produced.
Publication of a list of members with their specialities, addresses and dialects spoken. This has been widely distributed in the Chinese community.
Lifestyle education for ethnic Chinese students in secondary schools.
Sponsorship of the Hamilton Chinese Garden Project.
Overseas links include the following:
Member of Australasian Council of Chinese Medical Association as a foundation members, and hosting of the 4th ACCMA Scientific Conference.
Participation at functions of the Federation of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian Medical Associations.
Hosting of the Chinese Minister of Health and other visiting Health Officials from China and Taiwan.
Hosting of visiting overseas medical scholars of Chinese descent.
Participation in joint meetings with the Chinese Medical Association in Beijing and provision of presenters at their Meeting in 1998. The presenters were Dr Sun Chau, Dr Allen Liang, Dr Barry Lowe and Dr Wilson Young.
Other activities include:
A submission to the Medical Practitioner’s Bill. The President appeared before the Social Service Select Committees to discuss the submission.
Joint projects and activities with the Auckland Indian Medical Association.
Research into the Chinese in New Zealand has been growing steadily in recent years. In fact the last ten years has seen something of a boom in this field that can be accounted for by several reasons. The most important is the change in immigration policy in 1987. This allowed Chinese immigrants to enter New Zealand on the same terms as other immigrants for the first time in over one hundred years. The so-called "Asian Invasion" that resulted saw the Chinese population of New Zealand more than double in ten years. Not surprisingly such a dramatic change in the Chinese New Zealand community resulted in a mini-flood of publications on the phenomenon and on the people who made up the "invasion.’’ Interest in the new immigrants led almost inevitably to a renewed interest in the older Chinese community, not only from outsiders but from the Chinese community itself. The self confidence of the new immigrants made many in the older community re-examine their own Chinese identity, and researching their own history was one way of affirming both their Chinese identity and their Chinese New Zealand identity. The recent boom in genealogy in New Zealand also affected Chinese New Zealanders, causing many to become interested in their own roots. A number of Chinese New Zealand families have been celebrating the centenary of their residence in this country. Creative works by Chinese New Zealanders exploring Chinese New Zealand identity, using the history of their families in New Zealand as a basis are also on the increase. And there are official publications and celebrations such as the Dictionary of New Zealand biography and the 150th anniversary of Otago, that have led to research on Chinese New Zealanders. One can also mention the growth and popularity of oral history as an influence. It is likely that as time goes on the more these trends will grow. Of course all these require systematic research into the details of the lives of individual Chinese New Zealanders.
A major problem facing anyone attempting to research Chinese New Zealanders is the almost complete lack of guides to help them. Most of the guides available to researchers of European New Zealanders are of little use to researchers of Chinese New Zealanders, and nothing specific has yet been produced to provide such assistance. It is my intention in this paper to attempt to outline some of the difficulties involved in researching Chinese New Zealanders and to suggest some guidelines and sources for those attempting to do so. This will not be a "how-to" guide on researching Chinese New Zealand people, it will be more of a general exploration of the principles involved, an introduction to the subject based on over ten years of my experiences undertaking research into Chinese New Zealanders.
THE BENEFITS OF STUDYING CHINESE NEW ZEALAND INDIVIDUALS
Apart from the obvious benefits from the various projects mentioned above, the main benefit in studying Chinese New Zealand individuals is that the history of the community as a whole is reflected in the lives of its individual members in a way that I believe is unique. Because Chinese New Zealand lives are so linked with the various laws and regulations designed by the New Zealand government to exclude Chinese from New Zealand, a study of individual Chinese and Chinese families can yield insights into the life of the whole Chinese New Zealand community. By studying the specific, one can gain insight into the larger or general trends in Chinese New Zealand history. In my opinion, the study of the life of an individual Chinese New Zealander will reflect the life of the wider Chinese community of the time more so than the study of a comparative European New Zealander will.
In addition the study of Chinese New Zealand families is particularly pertinent to the study of Chinese New Zealand history pre WWll because in the period up to WWII the Chinese New Zealand community itself was like an extended family, or more precisely, a group of related families. Pre WWll, and even after that, up to the 1970s, the vast majority of Chinese came from a very small geographic area in Guangdong province. Although the immigrants and their descendants identified, socialised, married and worked within their own village and geographic groups, the restrictions and racism they all equally suffered under created a community of shared experience and interest. The larger Chinese community could therefore be viewed as one large extended family. The study of Chinese New Zealand families therefore is appropriate to the study of the community as a whole during the greater part of its history
Definition of "Chinese"
For the purposes of this paper the term "Chinese" means Chinese people who came to New Zealand in the years 1866 to 1951, the year in which naturalisation of Chinese was reintroduced, and the year when the quota system for family reunification was abolished. Although Chinese continued to arrive in New Zealand in the years from 1952 to 1987, the majority of these were family members of those who had come before, so it is possible to regard the pre-1952 group as constituting historically the older, established Chinese New Zealand community, and this is the group that I refer to when I use the term Chinese New Zealanders. The vast majority of this group came from or are descendants of people from eight counties surrounding or near to Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong Province, in south-east China. These are: Tung Goon and Jung Seng, lying to the east of Guangzhou, Poon Yu and Fa Yuen, to the north of Guangzhou, and Hoiping, Toishan, Sunhui and Yanping (collectively known as Seyip), lying to the southwest.
The main difficulty facing anyone researching Chinese New Zealanders is the marginalisation of Chinese New Zealanders in official records. By marginalisation I am really meaning invisibility. The marginalisation or invisibility of Chinese in official records reflects their marginalisation in New Zealand society. This is particularly so in the years between 1908 and 1952 when Chinese were barred from naturalization. In addition, with a few notable exceptions, socially Chinese were also deemed invisible. Up until the 1950s Chinese were rarely seen as individuals, being lumped together under the ubiquitous title "the Chinese", "Chinamen", and other more derogatory labels. To extract actual living, individual people from the negligence and neglect of official records often feels like a real triumph against institutional racism. In addition –what might be called a double whammy – many Chinese wished to make themselves invisible to officialdom. On the one hand, invisibility improved ones chances of survival. In other cases Chinese were living under assumed identities. Both instances necessitated hiding from officialdom.
As an example of this marginalisation Chinese were not usually recorded by name in several major New Zealand family history sources. For example in post office directories, they are recorded, if at all, only by the name of their shops. The debarring from naturalisation between 1908 and 1952 meant they were not recorded on electoral rolls and were debarred from all government employment. If you’re not on an electoral roll, not part of the public service, do not belong to any official organisation, do not pay rates or own land, effectively, you don’t exist. These comments do not apply so much to local-born Chinese, but are often exacerbated in the case of Chinese women, who are really the invisible of the invisible.
This is one of the major stumbling blocks for researching Chinese New Zealand individuals. Chinese New Zealanders were often known by a variety of names –due to Chinese calling themselves different names, and to officials recording their names incorrectly due to negligence or misunderstanding. The most common mistake was recording an individual’s personal name as the family name. [the European system being the reverse of the Chinese] Hence Choie Sew-hoy became known as Sew Hoy or Charles Sew Hoy. Chan Da-chee became Ah Chee, Chan Chew-joong became Chew Lee and later just plain Lee, and the descendants of Luey Gee are now known as the Gee family. These mistakes were often compounded with the children. For example Chan Fook-on was known as Fook On, his children were recorded variously as On, Fookon (one word), Fook On and Chan On. One son of Chan Fook-on was named Willie Sung-Chong Fook On, but was known as Willie Sung Chong, hence his children have the surname Chong. One of the most complex cases I’ve come across involves another son of Chan Fook-on, who was known variously as Allan Lum, Alan Chan, Lun Guong Chan, Alan Lun George Chan and Alan On. The same difficulty arises when brothers names are incorrectly recorded, for example the descendants of three brothers named Chan Moon-ting, Chan Moon-chang and Chan Moon-bing now have the surnames Ting, Chang and Bing.
These problems are compounded by the fact that different dialects pronounce the same name differently, for example Chan, Chun, Chen and Chin are different pronunciations of the same surname. European officials wrote down names as they heard them. Chinese were unable to change or correct what was written down, so were stuck with what was given.
Another problem is when a person became known in official records by the name of the shop they owned. For example because Chan Chuen-joong owned a shop called Ah Chung, he and his descendants have become known as the Chungs. Similarly Chung Ying owned a shop called Dick Lee, so he was known as Chung Dick Lee, Dick Lee, or simply Mr Lee.
A last difficulty with names is the Chinese custom of changing one’s name during the course of one’s life. A common case is taking on a new name to reflect a change in one’s life or life circumstances, much as nuns do when they enter a religious order. For example Sun Yat-sen was known as Sun Wen, Sun Tixiang, Sun Zhongshan and Sun Yat-sen at various times in his life. Therefore, as New Zealand examples, Au Jhing-kwong was also known later in life as Au Yuk-bor, and Chiu Kwok-chun took on the literary name Ping Ming when he was writer and editor of various Kuomintang newspapers. Unless one knows these variations one is liable to miss significant sources of information.
Naturally Chinese themselves were and are aware of what the real name of their family and other families was, but there is a danger that this knowledge will be lost, particularly if the knowledge of one generation is not been passed on to succeeding generations. This danger becomes greater as time progresses. If this information is not recorded or passed on in some way a unique and completely invaluable source of information will be lost, and the ability to trace the steps back to the original names will become next to impossible. I venture that we are at a crucial stage in the field of Chinese New Zealand studies in this respect. Unless one knows, there is nothing in official, publicly available records to tie the Chung family back to the original Chan Chuen-joong, nor the Chongs back to Chan Fook-on. Fortunately there are people at the moment that are recording this type of information. But more could and should be done. So get out there and start your family histories and publish them!
Naturally there are solutions to these problems. Because the lives of individual Chinese New Zealanders are so tied with the legislative restrictions enacted against them, it is essential to not only know the history of these restrictions, but also the history of the community in general. The more one knows the more one can ask the relevant questions that will provide the answers one requires. As already noted immigration records are one of the main sources of information for research on Chinese New Zealanders. The history of Chinese New Zealanders involves the process of getting to New Zealand and of adhering to or subverting the various restrictions in force at any given period. The records of payment of poll-tax are one of the major sources of information on Chinese New Zealand immigration. Unfortunately these are largely incomplete due to the majority of them being burnt in a fire in 1951. Because of the sojourner status of most Chinese men and the difficulty of bringing families to New Zealand, there are many records of re-entry to and from China. There are also records of families being brought out to New Zealand, especially sons and nephews, as well as records of families going home to China to provide children, New Zealand-born in the main, with a Chinese education. Loopholes in immigration restrictions such as the 1930s student scheme are also useful. There are also records of temporary and permanent entry under the permit system instituted in 1920, and records relating to the 1939 refugee family scheme and the family reunification scheme of 1947-1952. All these records are contained in the files of the National Archives of New Zealand. The records held in the National Archives are one of the major sources of information on Chinese in New Zealand.
The National Archives records are what I call "Chinese-specific" records, meaning the information contained in them relates exclusively or almost exclusively to Chinese. The other major sources for "Chinese-specific" records are Alexander Don’s Roll of Chinese 1883-1913, containing information on over 3,000 Chinese New Zealanders and now publicly available thanks to James Ng and George Griffith Publishers. The 1917 Register of Aliens is another major source. There are other valuable sources such as the list of persons naturalised in New Zealand, electoral rolls, petitions to Parliament, post office directories and phone books. Cemetery and headstone records are particularly useful for identifying or confirming an individual’s Chinese name and origin.
Other useful sources are those common to all New Zealanders, such as Birth, Death and Marriage records, school records, church records and war service records. A source of information that shows you know your Chinese New Zealand history is the Birth Death and Marriage registers of New South Wales. These are useful because naturalised Chinese men would often get married in Sydney on their way back to New Zealand with their new brides so as to avoid payment of poll-tax and the education test on their wives. Naturalised Chinese were exempt from immigration restrictions and as Chinese marriages were not recognised by New Zealand, a marriage in Australia as proof of European marriage was necessary to avoid these restrictions.
All these records can be referred to as primary sources, but one shouldn’t forget secondary sources. These include newspapers, magazines, obituaries, local histories, reminiscences and autobiographies, all of which might contain invaluable information. There are also a number of theses and histories on the Chinese in New Zealand which would provide useful background information on the Chinese in New Zealand.
In conclusion there are a few simple strategies one needs to undertake research on Chinese New Zealand individuals and families. These include the need to:
As mentioned above this paper is just a rough overview of the subject of researching Chinese New Zealand people. There are many more avenues of research to the few discussed here. Although researching Chinese New Zealanders isn’t easy, it is possible, and – as with all research – the rewards always outweigh the effort involved.
6.7 Asia Dynamic: An Ethnic minority Television Programme
I produce a Television Programme called Asia Dynamic. It transmits on TV1 Saturday mornings and repeats on Auckland’s Triangle TV on Sunday nights. It is a programme for and about the Asian communities in New Zealand. But as it appears on Television, it is made to interest all viewers who may come across it. It is essentially non-political and non-partisan, recording the daily lives, concerns and aspirations or those ethnic minorities labelled rather broadly as "Asian".
A rather loose label that completely fails to describe the immense diversity of peoples and cultures under that broad umbrella. However for the sake of discussion I hope you will accept that "Asian" is used in a generic context and not at all in a dismissive way.
Asia Dynamic is made by the private company Asia Vision in which myself and Melissa Lee, associate producer and presenter, are directors. We employ staff mainly of Asian descent from Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Korea and India via Fiji. We also employ others of Asian descent who work part time with us.
We maintain strong relations with all of the Asian communities, through their societies and associations, and through regular monthly meetings in our office. Our office is deliberately situated on the street on Karangahape Road in Auckland for accessibility. We therefore see ourselves as working within the fabric of the Asian communities, while still maintaining a professional independence that allows us to keep a discreet and objective distance.This is to make sure that we provide a true reflection of the communities without political bias or other influences. So far we have trodden this somewhat fine line very successfully and will not doubt keep doing so.
Truthfully and accurately reflecting such vastly different and diverse communities and sub-communities is not too easy, but I have developed a programme philosophy that I think adequately meets those needs. We have many calls on us and we must of course respect them all. We cope with this mainly by producing items that are either generic in nature, or stories that are told through the experience of various people in the communities. This allows stories to carry common themes of experience, such as prejudice, job hunting or language difficulties without inviting confrontation or direct challenge. We treat more specific subjects (such as cultures, religions, anniversaries and special celebrations) individually, always trying to bring a fresh approach to such coverage.
In other words we are always bringing forward both the exceptional diversity of the communities as well as the many things we all have in common as human beings.
This mix is always dealt with positively, and presented in such a way as to remind us that differences are natural, and indeed essential to a safe and comfortable existence for all of us. Whether we like or dislike certain differences in another person of another race, the fact is that we would not survive as a species, if we were all to become the same. Nature herself insists on difference to define and refine all life. We all know what happens when we get too incestuous with anything. It mutates and disintegrates. Differences are therefore fundamental to our approach in making Asia Dymanic.
We have to accept the principle that we must get on with each other and that differences must be either enjoyed or at least recognised and worked through. This can only happen through communication and that is what Asia Dynamic is all about. While we carry respect of differences as part of our editorial banner, we also exercise this principle in everyday construction of the programme. We cannot refuse anything simply because it is different, after all we are about difference. Therefore we must have an extremely flexible and fluid programme philosophy.
Asia Dynamic basically becomes a general forum for discussion of differences, for sharing thoughts and ideas and for celebration of different languages, cultures, religions, dance, music and philosophy. We recognise that for many people language, culture and religion are core securities in their lives. Therefore we consider we must respect those rights and accept that all languages and cultures are valid. From this base understanding Asia Dynamic presents a cosmopolitan glimpse of lives, experience, feelings and thoughts of many people living in many different circumstances.
This makes for colourful, interesting and sometimes penetrating stories that together become a fairly true record of the daily lives of people of Asian descent living in New Zealand.
Producing a television programme covering minority ethnic Asian communities gives us salutary lessons on just how similar and yet how different we all are. In a recent programme special on two Chinese families and their children growing up in New Zealand, it was a revelation how one of the daughters spoke consistently of being a New Zealand Chinese, as opposed to Australian or other nation stroke Chinese.Her experience as a New Zealander born Chinese makes her a specifically different and unique person and illustrates clearly one of the major realities Asia Dynamic has to deal with.
Asia Dynamic as it records the experience of different people, some with New Zealand as a home, and others with four or five generations behind them, clearly demonstrates changes and compromises made between different cultures. From recent arrivals comes the confusions, hurt and stresses, the learning of new ways of doing things, racism, new language demands and different attitudes of new societies.And from the older families comes the long term struggle of acceptance, the intimate pain of continuing prejudice, the challenge of juggling two cultures and the deep tests of identity that brings.
For many people of Asian descent, combining two cultures into a satisfactory whole that provides adequate personal security, and yet preserves the essentials of both cultural identities, can be a very demanding and uncomfortable process. For some the two remain irreconcilable, an internal turmoil, and a confusing threat through their entire lives. For others a more peaceful knowledge can result, affording distinct advantages over a purely mono-cultural person. From this too can come positive social opportunities for a truly integrated and effective multicultural society. Asia Dynamic does not usually address such matter directly. They tend to float up through the everyday coverage of events, and happenings in the Asian communities, because they are almost always there in some degree. But we are certainly aware of such fundamentals to being different, and are committed to letting them be exposed in context, as part of the realities of minority cultures in this country. We do not see this as a direct responsibility as such, but rather an informal result of producing a magazine programme on TV about a group of minorities, when we reveal part of the fabric of those communities.
Our fundamental position for constructing the programme, is to use those well tried reporting criteria "Who What Why How and When" as the basis for everything we do. From any question put to any person can come interesting and worthwhile tales. Indeed many of our story ideas come from casual, or informal conversations. Other story lines come from our own investigations, and contacts through the Asian communities, and a percentage come from other media coverage. Being a magazine rather than a current affairs or news programme, we are often able to pick up a story angle not exposed in the first media coverage.
Sometimes it can become quite important to do this in order to provide a context for an event, crime or news story. We have a number of times carried items that provided a cultural, religious or ethnic background context, to an otherwise stark and incomplete portrayal on other media. Once again, while we do not necessarily set out to right a wrong, or present a modification for better understanding of a situation, such elements will often surface in the course of our normal programming. We think it is important not to "manage" or "massage" stories, but rather let the stories tell themselves through the eyes and minds, of the people we meet and film. This not only allows for substantial honesty in out items, but for real spontaneity that is impossible to capture in any other way. It is real freshness that often brings considerable praise and appreciation from viewers.
Manipulation for commercial, political or even "human" reasons almost always produces a more stunted compromised product, less spontaneous and less fresh in human terms. Asia Dynamic is fortunate in that it does not have to seek ratings, or meet other approvals, other than to produce a highly professional product that truthfully reflects (and is designed to record) the lives of those in the Asian communities.
The 40 week series of Asia Dynamic is funded by New Zealand on Air from License Fee Revenue, and costs just under one million dollars a year to produce. The programme is made by Asia Vision for the broadcaster TVNZ who receives the end product free. The mechanics of this arrangement in general allows us to develop Asia Dynamic unhindered. We occasionally receive modest pressure from within the communities to produce stories that we may not consider appropriate, but we have never fallen out with any group, nor received an serious complaints on material used. That Asia Dynamic does not push barrows, yet manages to meet most of the expectations of the Asian communities, to air their concerns and aspirations, is something of an achievement. But in policy terms it’s not such a difficult challenge.
Once a policy of not having agendas is established and understood it becomes relatively easy to administer. However there are occasions when decisions have to be made, to modify or delete particular views or political positions, that may compromise other positions held. For instance I declined to film a recent event in Auckland, held by a particular group which celebrated a series of nuclear tests by a particular nation on the Indian continent. I decided against a story for several reasons:
In summary I chose not to cover this event because it was already canvassed in new media, could tend to divide the local communities, could encourage racial blacklash which could adversely affect the specific community, and could invite a general blacklash or prejudice affecting all of the Asian communities.
This clearly illustrates the difference between Asia Dynamic as a magazine programme, and new and current affairs programmes. News and current affairs are expected to carry and investigate such matters, but Asia Dynamic in general is not. Our requirement is to cover the lives of the Asian communities preferably without creating conflict that can lead to division. At the same time we can not allow ourselves to become apologists for any questionable activity within those communities. To address this Asia Dynamic has mounted a number of discussion forums on controversial subjects such as racism, youth crime, driving and other habits that are questioned. This illustrated our willingness to cover topics that may not reflect too positively on the communities. But we have always planned such forums carefully to make sure we conduct them fairly and without prejudice.
If I were to do a story on the community celebration of nuclear testing, then I would most likely mount a group forum of the matter, to discuss all sides of the issue rather than simply run the celebration story in isolation, as happened in this case in other media. Nevertheless Asia Dynamic’s role can be seen as a part of the general media reflecting the fabric of our whole society in all its manifestations. What I do see Asia Dynamic doing in this context is exploring the nature of the our Asian communities, filling in the gaps, and providing other stories with ethnic and cultural contexts to be carried in other media. One of the obvious problems is that media often do not meet their end of this bargain. Other media have until fairly recently paid little attention to the Asian communities, except in negative contexts such as major crime or curious aberrations. Until recently there were very few stories looking at the many positive aspects of the communities.
A recent change has occurred partly through efforts of the Asia 2000 Foundation, to fund journalists to Asian countries to improve reporting of Asian matters, and partly through a growing awareness that the Asian communities are actually a wonderful source of colourful and interesting material. It is also my contention that Asia Dynamic as the only Television Programme covering the communities, has also had some influence in helping other media discover the more positive values and activities of the Asian communities. In this context we deliberately transmit Asia Dynamic in English, with occasional use of native language where people don’t speak English well.
In those cases we generally allow some of the native language to be heard, and then voice over in English. Occasionally we will sub-title in English. The most obvious reason for using English is that it’s the principle language here and we need to communicate to the greatest number of viewers. But we also use English to demonstrate through our Asian reporters, that there are actually many forms of accented English spoken around the world, and that all of them - providing they communicate - are equally valid.We deliberately do not change any of the accent English forms spoken by our staff or by people we interview.We do however, try to make sure others will understand our English. In other words we present our accented English for universal use. This does not require very much compromise at all. It means sometimes we will practice a word or phrase to make it more understandable, or we will find an alternative word to use.
In fact our deliberate use of accented English contributes substantially to the principles of universal understanding of differences, and for racial tolerance. This is one of the foundations of any programme covering differences. Another factor is that many Asian viewers use the programme to improve their own English skills. We carefully use conversational English and occasionally jargon to assist them in this difficult task.
Making any programme concerning ethnic minorities is a challenging yet very exciting and rewarding area to work. It provides a veritable feast of variety, entertainment, real life drama and a real chance to learn about yourself, about others and perhaps even make a small contribution to a friendlier society.
In summary, while celebration of difference is a strong theme, I see Asia Dynamic first and foremost, simply as a working television programme.This gives us specific, direct and easily recognizable goals.I see no point in being precious or intellectual with difficult to define and perhaps vague, esoteric or aesthetic goals. We let those things to fall into place themselves without manipulation. My principle is that honest work will reveal honest programme. As a matter of policy it must be as honest and true as possible. If it is not, if fails in its very reason for existence. We also owe such honesty to the communities we serve, as well as ourselves as professional programme makers. Asia Dynamic is not an ordinary television programme, looking for ratings, commercial impact or political or other goals. It is simply a programme reflecting the lives of certain ethnic minorities. No mind games, no artifice, no ego. This carries privilege, honour and responsibility for all of those working on the programme. But in the end as a producer of Asia Dynamic, I see it as a programme for viewer enjoyment, a little learning and a celebration of life in all its amazing variation.
Author: Bill Willmott
When I visited Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu, in 1994, I found a few dozen Chinese businessmen with no communal life or centre. A "Chinese Club" building no longer existed, and efforts to resurrect the Chinese Association had not born fruit, although it continued to exist in name. Occasionally the Chinese mobilised to send delegations to government regarding specific issues, but generally they appeared to be focused on their individual business and family interests.
This was not how they wanted it to be. In interviews, some of them expressed disappointment at the individuation of the local Chinese population and the lack of any community organisation. A young man recalled to me the activities he had enjoyed as a child in the 1960s, when Chinese families gathered at the Chinese Club on a Sunday, the adults chatting or playing mahjong while the children played together outside. Usually a communal meal was cooked by the women and shared by all. Chinese festivals were celebrated communally then, too: New Year, Qing Ming, and the Double Tenth. For this young man, such community activities helped define his Chinese identity as a child.
Events surrounding the struggle for independence in Vanuatu changed all that. Many Chinese, afraid that the end of colonial rule would also spell the end of business-as-usual, shifted their economic and family focus to Australia. Some also tried to lower their public visibility as a group. The Chinese Club ceased to be a vital centre, became derelict and was finally demolished some time after independence was declared in 1980.
Almost twenty years later, the Chinese community in Vanuatu has taken a new lease on life. The Chinese Association in Port Vila, with sixty-five members, is building a new club house in the centre of the town. I see the building as both a symbol and a realisation of the growing desire among Chinese to preserve their identity as a community. Preparation for its inauguration has led to a renewed interest in the history of the community, and they have asked me to contribute historical information that can enhance the event.
Until recently, most Chinese in the Pacific have shown little interest in the history of their local communities. As "overseas Chinese", their relevant history was the history of China, its struggle for modernisation and the civil conflict that accompanied that process. They felt the same kind of "colonial cringe" about their current home as Pakeha New Zealanders used to experience: like us, they believed that real society, real history, rea1 culture resided in the motherland, not in this South Pacific outpost where we happened to live, thousands of miles from "home".
Just as Pakeha New Zealanders have begun to construct a new identity involving an indigenous history, so a combination of factors has led Chinese in the Pacific Islands to an interest in the history of the Chinese in their locality. I was heartened to find Chinese researching their own communities in many Pacific Island countries. In Fiji, for example, Chinese academics are recording the life stories of resident Chinese. Similarly, in Tahiti several Chinese are today writing their history. Everywhere I went, Chinese welcomed my own efforts to research archives and capture the experiences of elderly Chinese before the information was lost. I am therefore delighted that the Vanuatu Chinese Association has asked me to contribute to their own history based on my research thus far.
For this conference, the interest of this paper, therefore, really lies more in the nature of its origin than in the substantive material I have to offer. The history of a few hundred Chinese in a small Pacific island country may seem trivial and uninteresting to many, but the fact that it is vital to those few Chinese themselves makes it an exciting project to pursue. I therefore make no apology for presenting this story.
'Before giving you an account of the history of Vanuatu Chinese, it may be useful to some of you to have some facts about Vanuatu and a brief outline of its colonial history. The country comprises a score of inhabited islands stretching across 800 kilometres of ocean with a population of 150,000, the vast majority of whom are indigenous peoples who continue to live in traditional tribal settlements. The non-indigenous population--Australians, French, British, Chinese a few Vietnamese and some others-- are confined primarily to the only two towns: the capital, Port Vila on Efate, and Luganville on Espiritu Santo, known familiarly as Santo.
The first European settlement in the New Hebrides occurred on Aneityum in 1844, when traders were searching for sandalwood for the Canton market.1 Missionaries followed not long after, Australian Presbyterians being the first to avoid being eaten long enough to set up their mission stations.2 Two decades later, the American Civil War caused a sudden rise in the price of cotton, which motivated Europeans, mainly French and British, to establish plantations on several islands in both the southern and northern groups.3 Over subsequent years, plantations grew in number and shifted from cotton to coffee, cocoa, maize, sugar, cattle, bananas and coconuts.4
From 1906 to 1980, the New Hebrides was loosely governed as a "Condominium" colony by two resident commissioners, one French the other British, each responsible to his own High Commissioner, in New Caledonia and Fiji respectively. This curiously unique and often clumsy arrangement had begun informally in the 1880s, when colonial rivalries were at their peak and the French in New Caledonia were keen to extend their colony into the neighbouring New Hebrides.5 The Condominium survived the Pacific War, when Americans occupied these islands, but it eventually foundered on differing policies towards the Vanuatu liberation movement, and the National Party under Father Walter Lini succeeded in achieving independence on July 30, 1980. At the same time, the French were supporting a secessionist movement m the northern islands based on Espiritu Santo which the new Vanuatu government eventually quashed with the help of troops from PNG.6
The First Chinese
Legendary and undocumented accounts of Chinese contact with the New Hebrides go far back into history. One European settler in Port Vila believes that Chinese searching for sandalwood reached the islands in the thirteenth century, but there is no historical evidence to support this assertion.7 Furthermore, Chinese ignorance of this source for sandalwood since then seems to me to be rather strong evidence against this possibility.
The historical record tells us that the first Chinese to live in the New Hebrides arrived in January 1844. The story begins in Wellington, where a Captain James Paddon called a public meeting in July 1843 to recruit "colonists" for a sandalwood station in the New Hebrides.8
Thirty-five Europeans, eight Maori and sixteen Chinese sailed with him in October to Aneityum Island, where the station was established shortly afterward.9 One of these was Jimmy Song, who served as Paddon's shepherd until he moved to Noumea in 1862.10 Others, possibly including some Chinese, moved with Paddon to Tanna in 1852.11
Somewhat more plausible than thirteenth-century sandalwood hunters, though also without documentary corroboration, is the oral tradition among Chinese in Vanuatu that British cotton planters brought Chinese labour to Santo, Epi, Malakula and Efate in the 1880s. The project failed because, according to my source, there was no rice, and the Chinese were not happy eating taro.
It is on record that British planters in Fiji and other Pacific islands at that time were keen
to import Chinese labour, and indeed one source states that Chinese indentured labour was used on British plantations in Fiji in the 1880s.12 It is therefore possible that Chinese workers were brought to some of the dozen or so British plantations in the New Hebrides. It is rather unlikely, however, for the British Colonial Office was at the time completely opposed to planters in the New Hebrides recruiting overseas labour, in particular Chinese labour because of the dreadful experience of indentured Chinese workers in the West Indies two decades earlier.13
The story of Chinese plantation workers in the New Hebrides may have originated with reference to John Higginson's "Compagme Caledonienne des Nouvelles He'brides", which had several plantations in the New Hebrides and did import 165 Chinese contract labourers to its operations in nearby New Caledonia in 1884, but they did not stay long and the experiment was not repeated because of "unhappy results".14
Some evidence for early Chinese labour on Santo may be provided by the remains of a temple or tomb at Suriendu which several Chinese claim to have seen. Unfortunately, the ruins are not dated, and one Chinese suggested to me that it may have been the grave of a passing mariner rather than a plantation worker.
If Chinese came to the New Hebrides as labourers or shepherds in the nineteenth century, no trace of their descendants is evident today. The history of the present Chinese community therefore begins with the early settlers who arrived in the second decade of the twentieth century.
The first known Chinese settler to establish in Vanuatu arrived in 1912 (according to his eldest son). He was Mr Zhang Ya Bao originally from Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian Province. He had earlier migrated to Singapore, where he was then hired as cook aboard the British government vessel Euphrosyne, which transported the British Commissioner around the New Hebrides. Having served for three years on the ship, Ah Pow, as he was by then known to the British authorities, got a job at Port Vila for a while, then started a market garden to supply vegetables to the growing town. Fresh vegetables were much appreciated by the townspeople at that time.15 At some point he returned to Singapore to find a wife, a Miss Yang and bring her back to Vila, where they subsequently had nine children. In 1926 he began a bakery and somewhat later a grocery shop, both of which continue today in the hands of his sons.
Ah Pow's place as cook on the Euphrosyne was taken by a Cantonese named Longwah (Long Hua ), also recruited in Singapore. This boat had several Chinese crew members, some of whom found ways to settle in the New Hebrides. An article in the Pacific Islands Monthly in 1934 stated that the first Chinese to settle in Port Vila were landed there when the Euphrosyne was wrecked in the late-1920s and the British authorities allowed them to stay as "traders, storekeepers, gardeners, etc."16 One such may have been Ah Leong, or Leong Ho, familiarly known as "Bo's'n" (Boatswain), who also worked on the Euphrosyne and then lived in Vila until he died in 1967.
Another early Cantonese settler was Mr. Leong Tong Kee (Liang Dong ) usually known as Ah Tong, who was hired to build the French hospital in Port Vila in the early 1920s. After completing that contract, he established his own construction company, cutting timber and building churches on several islands.
A prominent early settler was Feng Deyuan , a Cantonese from Haoshan County who arrived in Port Vila in 1928 with his brother Feng Derui . For some years they worked on "Tibby" Hagen's plantation on Epi, where Feng Deyuan was storekeeper. He then started his own business in Port Vila, Fung Kwan Chee (Feng Junchi ), by which name he himself was best known. By 1934, Fung Kwan Chee was sufficiently wealthy to return to Hong Kong and marry Wu Lee Young, whose thirteen children were all born in three New Hebrides. By the 1950s, he was seen by the British as "probably the wealthiest and certainly the most popular Chinese in the New Hebrides ".17
When Fung Kwan Chee returned to Port Vila with his wife in 1934, he brought with him a twelve-year-old orphaned nephew, Fung Kuei (Feng Kui ). The young lad went to French school briefly, then worked for his uncle until he was able to open his own store after the war.
Three other Cantonese came to Vila in the early 1930s to work for Burns Philip, the largest British company in the Pacific at the time. These were Kim Yee, Lo Lam and his cousin Kok Chew, all of whom eventually established their own companies and have left families living in Vanuatu today.
Chinese Community before the War
By 1934, there was a small Chinese community of perhaps fifty men in Port Vila. An article in The Pacific Islands Monthly describes the situation thus:
Chinese began bringing wives from China just as this article appeared, when both Ah Pow and Fung Kwan Chee were married. From then on, Chinese family life developed in Vila.
In November of that year, another item in the same magazine datelined Noumea and entitled "Chinese Traders in Vila", had this to say:
At that time, much of the retail business in the New Hebrides was in French hands, although several Japanese retailers also had shops in Vila,20 possibly branches of Japanese businesses in Noumea, where they dominated the retail trade to the exclusion of Chinese.21
By that time, French planters had brought hundreds of Vietnamese workers to Efate. They provided ready customers for Chinese retailers, who better understood their needs and were willing to work on narrower margins of profit than their French competitors. This is how Longwah, who married a Vietnamese, Fung Kwan Chee and other Chinese made their start in business.
Each month or so, The Pacific Islands Magazine noted the arrival of a few more Chinese settlers in Vila.22 By the end of the 1930s, there were about seventy-five Chinese traders in the town,23 as well as Chinese working on the inter-island steamers.24 Since almost all the Chinese spoke Cantonese, the community was relatively homogeneous at the time. Chinese gravestones in the old cemetery at Vila indicate that, with the exception of Ah Pow and are often, all the Chinese came from the Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong Province, specifically the counties of Dongguan, Zhengcheng, Taishan, Kaiping, Haoshan, and Shunde.
In 1932, the Chinese in Vila established a community association (Zhonghua Huiguan
) known in English as the "Chinese Club".25 This association served the community as a social centre and as an advocate with both the British and French Commissioners. Its first president was Longwah, who served throughout the 1930s. Apart from serving social functions, the Chinese Club was founded as a communal response to difficulties faced by the Chinese at the time.
Law and order were problematic in the Condominium, and traders were constantly threatened by burglary, often by violence. The Chinese also faced considerable discrimination and prejudice, sometimes motivated by jealousy over their success in business. Local French and British residents complained repeatedly to their commissioners and to the press, evoking the common sterotypes of Chinese as poor but industrious men of dubious morals, who ruthlessly exploited their own workers as well as all their customers.26 In 1931, six Chinese were publicly guillotined outside the French hospital in Vila for the murder of a French citizen, and eight others were given long prison sentences for the same crime.27 It may be that this incident convinced the Chinese
that a communal association was in their interests. Comparatively speaking, it is unusual for such a small Chinese community to found an association.
Although racist British complained of Chinese miscegenation with the island population,28 intermarriage before the war was extremely rare for Chinese. My Chinese friends in Vanuatu could remember only two cases of Chinese marrying Vanuatu women: Ah Yeung, a Hokkien, who lived in Vila, and one who moved to Malakula and disappeared from the Chinese community.
During the Condominium, disembarking immigrants were required to opt for French or British "protection". Since most Chinese came through Hong Kong, most chose the British, but about one in three opted for the French jurisdiction. Many Chinese sent their children to French schools, however, because they considered their educational standards were higher. Fung Kwan Chee sent his young nephew to a French school, and Ah Pow sent his daughters and one of his sons to French schools. Some, like Fung Kwan Chee, sent their sons to Hong Kong or China for primary schooling to assure they got a Chinese education as well. There was no Chinese school in the New Hebrides until well after the war. Many of the Chinese could speak four languages: Cantonese, English, French, and Bislama (the local version of pigin).
The Pacific War
As in all Pacific Island colonies, the Chinese community in the New Hebrides was deeply alfected by the war which came to the Pacific in 1942. Unlike some other places, however, the war did not bring opportunity to the Chinese in Vila; rather, it brought hard times and disruption. Quite a few decided to move to Sydney for the duration, especially those with families, forming a connection with Australia that remains very strong today. Children educated in Australian schools picked up Australian ways, many of them deciding to settle there for good. Older people found Sydney's climate and way of life congenial and decided to retire there.
Those who remained in Vila to run their businesses faced difficult times. Constantly fearful of Japanese invasion during the early days, they were relieved when the Americans arrived in force on Efate. Then, however, they suffered the humilation of being mistaken for Japanese, and even accused of spying when they listened to their radios. By the end of 1942, hardly any remained. Ah Tong (Liang Dong) was president of the Chinese Club during these difficult years.
In 1945, one might have predicted that the Chinese community would never recover in the New Hebrides. Events in China, however, as is so often the case in the history of the Chinese overseas, caused a huge emigration of Cantonese, some of whom reached the island countries of the South Pacific, including the Condominium. Rather than entering total eclipse, the Chinese community in Vila burgeoned, and a new community developed on Espiritu Santo during the 1950s and 1960s that outgrew its parent at Vila on Efate. Fung Kwan Chee became the president of the Chinese Club in Vila, followed in office by second-generation leaders, George Ah Tong, Wong Sau Kuel, Lawrence Lo (son of Lo Lam), then Rene' Ah Pow, who has been president since 1981.
The connection with Australia was well and truly forged during the war, and when Vanuatu independence threatened to disrupt their life once again, many Chinese moved their families permanently to Sydney, where they had been steadily building up their property. The independence struggle was exacerbated by the rivalry between French and British, which led to violence on Santo and convinced many Chinese that peace was not possible.
In fact, independent Vanuatu proved to be a good place for Chinese to live and work, and Chinese still provide a large portion of the local retail trade and a growing role in other services and industries. Paradoxically, in one sense the community begins to resemble the traditional overseas Chinese community in that many working men have wives and children elsewhere--albeit now in Australia rather than China or Hong Kong. In another sense, however, it has changed markedly, for the once almost homogeneous Cantonese community is becoming ever more varied as Chinese arrive from other parts of China, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Faced with the problems invoked by this variety, not least of which is the problem of identity, the original Chinese community seeks to redefine itself and reconstruct its communal organisation.
Which is where we came in.
1Dorothy Shineberg, They Came for Sandalwood, Melbourne University Press, 1967, p.98.
2 Deryck Scarr, Fragments of Empire, a History of the Western Pacific High Commission 1877-1914, Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1967, p.123.
3 Ibid. pp.16&120; Howard Van Trease (ed), The Politics of Land in Vanuatu: From Colony to Independence, Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, 1987, p.19.
4 Scarr, op.cit., p.181.
5 Scarr, op. cit., pp.176-217; John M. Ward, British Policy in the South Pacific (1786- 1893), Sydney: Australasian Publishing Co., 1948, pp 298-302.
6John Beasant, The Santo Rebellion, An Imperial Reckoning, Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1984.
7 His belief is based on assumptions rather than evidence: Chinese had the navigational capacity to reach the New Hebrides by then, including sailing into the wind, as evidenced by the finds of Japanese pottery in Mexico dated a thousand years old; sandalwood was extremely valuable in China at that time, so there was strong incentive to find it. Some historians believe that Chinese reached Irian Jaya (western New Guinea) in the fifteenth century in search of birds nests and bird-of-paradise feathers (David Y H Wu, The Chinese in Papua New Guinea: 1880- 1980, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1982, pp.17&22; Chen Hansheng, Huagong Chuguo Silei Huibian [Collection of Historical Materials on Emigre' Chinese Workers], Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1984,p.56) but I know of none who have suggested they got as far east as the archipelagoes.
8 Wellington Spectator 16 August 1843; cf. Shineberg, op. cit., p.98; and Andrew Cheyne, A Description of Islands in the West Pacific Ocean North and South of the Equator; With Sailing Directions Together With Their Productions; Manners and Customs of the Natives, and, Vocabularies of Their Various Languages, London: J D Potter; 1852, p.32.
9 These sixteen Chinese probably came to Wellington with Paddon from Hong Kong, for there was, so far as I can determine, only one Chinese living in New Zealand in 1843, a Mr Wong Hocting, aka. Appo Hocton, who settled in Nelson in 1842, having arrived as a steward on an immigrant ship from England, and became a naturalised citizen of New Zealand in 1852. Dictionary of NZ Biography, vol.1, Wellington: Allen & Unwin for Department of Internal Affairs, 1990, pp. 200f.; see also James Ng, Windows on a Chinese Past, How the Cantonese goldseekers and their heirs settled in New Zealand, Dunedin: Otago Heritage Books, Vol.1, 1993, pp.123&160.
10 Janine Laubreaux, Les Asia tiques en Nouvelle-Caledonie, Universite' de Montpellier: Faculte' des lettres et sciences humaines, 1965, p.77
11 Shineberg, op.cit., p.106.
12 Chen Hanseng, op.cit., p.53f.
13 Scarr, op.cit. pp.1&76ff.; Persia Crawford Campbell, Chinese Coolie Emigration to Countries Within the British Empire, London: Frank Cass & Co., 1923, p.159 & passim.
14 Frederic Angleveil & Mirielle Mouilleseaux, Les Populations en Nouvelle Caledonie au Ciecle Dernier, Noumea: Centre Territoriel de Recherche et de Documentation Pedagogiques, 1993, p.22; Bernard Brou, Peuplement et Population de la Nouvell~Cale'donie, Noumea: Societe' d'Etudes Historiques de la NouvelleCale'donie No.23, 1980, p.65; cf. Margaret Wilson, Clive Moore & Doug Munro, "Asian Workers in the Pacific", Labour in the South Pacific (Moore, Leckie, Munro, eds.), Townsville: James Cook University, 1990, p.85; and Colin Newbury, "The Melanesian Labour Reserve, Some Reflections on Pacific Labor [sic) Markets in the Nineteenth Century, Pacific Studies, vol.iv, no.1 (Fall 1980), p.17.
15 "Chinese in New Hebrides", The Pacific Islands Monthly, 19 Dec.1934, p.5.
17 The Pacific Islands Monthly, June 1955, p.58.
18"Chinese in New Hebrides", The Pacific Islands Monthly, 19 Dec.1934, p.5.
19 "Chinese Traders in Vila", The Pacific Islands Monthly, Nov.1934, p.70.
20 Nishino Terutaro, "The Japanese in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) a Preliminary Note", n.d., (unpublished manuscript held in Vanuatu Cultural Centre Archives, Port Vila).
21 Douglas L Oliver, The Pacific Islands (revised edition), Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1975, p.328.
22 See for examples, Pacific Islands Monthly Dec.1932, p.5; Nov.1934, p.9; Apr.1935, p.28
23 Nishino, op. cit. This source also states that there were 1200 Vietnamese indentured labourers working on French plantations at that time.
24Jottings from the New Hebrides no.142 (Oct.1928), p.3.
25 In interviews, Vanuatu Chinese told me the club began in 1934, but an item in The Pacific Islands Monthly dated December 1932 (p.5) refers to the Chinese club welcoming three new arrivals and farewelling three departing for Hong Kong. "Chinese Club" is not the usual English translation around the world, "Chinese Association" being much more common; it was probably copied from the name used in Fiji.
26 The Pacific Islands Monthly is full of anti-Chinese letters and articles throughout the 1920s and 1930s, which only disappeared when China becomes an ally during the Pacific war. (only to reappear in the Cold War).
27 Quarterly Jottings from the New Hebrides no.154 (Oct 1931), pp.17-18.
28 "Chinese in the New Hebrides", The Pacific Islands Monthly, 19 Dec.1934, p.5.
Author: Pansy Wong
On March 19 1997, on the front steps of New Zealand's Parliament, 130 blue and white balloons were released amidst a sea of smiling faces of Asian New Zealanders. Moments later they were singing and chanting while I was delivering my maiden speech in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The public display of such exhilarating emotion was perceived to be uncharacteristic of Asian New Zealanders.
The generous goodwill depicted by Parliament was equally exceptional. That was a very special moment, and it was a long time coming. 130 years after the first Chinese New Zealanders landed in Otago, one of them found the way into Parliament. It was a positive step towards New Zealand being a multicultural society, an affirmative statement that our Parliament is becoming more representative, a sign that our society does offer opportunities for everyone.
What I was not prepared for was the interest shown by the international communities, especially in Asia. Toll calls and phone interviews came thick and fast during election time. Pressure was building up towards the election date, October 12 1996. It was more than a relief to feel that one had not let the Asian communities down in New Zealand, Australia, China, England, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and some states in the USA.
Since then one has not had long to dwell on these special moments. Parliament, with its own protocol, standing orders and culture, demands the full attention of it's occupants. 120 strong-willed individuals coming from diverse backgrounds, their support staff, and the ambitious and well-qualified advisors, lobby groups, curious and observant journalists and the public - the stage is set for high drama.
Debates and issues can be conducted in a highly passionate manner or quiet, deliberate tone depending on the individuals and circumstances.
Few politicians can deny that it is a very special place and we are very privileged to be there. Every one of us can make a difference, provided that we are committed and disciplined. Learning the rules and keeping up our workload requires discipline and hardwork.
I am thankful to enter Parliament at this mature age. Having built up networks through business and community involvement helps you to keep in touch with public reaction and concerns. Organisational skills, interpersonal and communications expertise has been useful for me to adjust to the demands of serving on select committees, attending to constituents concerns and organising public meetings.
What has been difficult to adjust to is the lengthy decision-making process and the 'politics' of it all. My previous involvement was mainly with organisations where objectives were more specific and broadly similar but debates were conducted and decisions could be reached in the boardroom in a relatively swift manner.
In politics, MPs from different political parties tend to hold onto their positions. Arguments and debates are constantly being repeated with all sides realising that they cannot change the minds of others, especially in the debating chamber. Yet at all times they will continue to plead that other parties should present arguments to help change their minds. It is both an art and a challenge to keep a debate on the same subject alive, relevant and interesting, especially under urgency.
Undoubtedly, the challenge facing myself is how to balance the demands of Asian communities, fulfill the work of an MP and the role as a National Party MP. Some would expect me to concentrate on Asian issues; others would constantly remind me that I am a New Zealand MP with responsibilities to the wider communities.
Asian New Zealanders make up 4.2% of the population, hence over 15l,000 people of Chinese, Indian, Korean and other origins. A constituent MP's coverage is around 66,000 people. The Asian population is spread around the whole of New Zealand. Still, I do not have the luxury of just concentrating on Asian issues.
My membership of the Justice and Law Select Committee and the Commerce Select Committee alone ensures that I will participate and contribute to nationwide issues.
I chaired the 'Inquiry into Compliance Costs' within the Commerce Select Committee, due to personal interest. In 1989 I was on the Government's Tax Simplification Taskforce and continue to feel strongly for small businesses. They should be encouraged to thrive rather than be suffocated by unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.
Asian communities are visibly responding to the call to have their say in political and public issues. My offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are responding to that demand, especially in Auckland where most of the Asian communities reside. They have kept my Asian speaking staff members busy with individual issues, requests for speaking engagements, policy or community initiatives.
During the second half of 1997 there were more than 250 requests and more than 120 public meetings. 40% of those public meetings were from wider communities who want to learn more about multicultural issues, Asian communities or an Asian MP. It is 'fashionable' to be different and 'unique' currently. I certainly never turn down the opportunity to market the concept of One Nation, Many People, Shared Values.
The message that I take to Asian communities is slightly different. The emphasis is on empowering oneself. Asian communities are rich in resources. They value education and are self-motivated. What they need is someone to explain the policy making process, introduce them to the various government agencies, share personal experiences as one of their own.
It is extremely fulfilling for me to see the establishment of Asian committees in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch within National Party. They are now comfortable to be identified as Asian New Zealanders as well as political party members. On July 10 1999, we held the historical first national conference of Asian committees in Wellington. We are determined to develop positive motivation for Asian to participate in politics. In 1996, the participation of Asian New Zealanders was partly driven by New Zealand First's calculated attack on Asian migrants.
Within three short years we have come a long way. The willingness of the Asian communities to contribute to the social and political debates in New Zealand is both exciting and welcoming.
Against this rewarding background I, like all other List MPs, have to confront the constant battle of justifying our existence. The wrath of public opinion against MMP and the coalition government mitigated one of the important contributions of MMP. Parliament is known as the House of Representatives, yet until now, Asian New Zealanders were not represented. Women are grossly underrepresented, and minority political parties could achieve more than 10% of the national vote and not be represented in Parliament.
As an Asian New Zealander, I fully understand the frustration of ethnic minority communities being subject to stereotyping and generalisation. The conduct of a few individuals is interpreted as the norm, and the community as a whole pays the price for it. Similarly, the unparliamentary behaviour of some politicians tends to reflect on the bulk of us. I was rather pleased to be nominated by the two Wellington newspapers as being one of the parliamentary "Saints" and a List MP who makes a difference. This encourages me to continue to work hard to justify the merits of MMP and a more representative Parliament.
Being an Asian and a woman naturally reflects on the manner I conduct myself, and the choice of issues to concentrate on. Within Asian communities and the female population, opinions and concerns are also widely different. The effective way for me to represent them is to listen, reflect, and encourage them to stand up, speak out, make submissions and ultimately offer themselves to stand. Keen competition will enhance the qualities of politicians.
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