Chinese rate loyalty to homeland highly

Page 1 of 2 View as a single page 4:00AM Thursday Oct 09, 2008
By Lincoln Tan
Pansy Wong. Photo / NZ Herald

Pansy Wong. Photo / NZ Herald

Election '08

To some Chinese voters, loyalty to China is the most important trait a Chinese MP in New Zealand must have.

The Herald spoke to 32 Chinese voters ahead of a Chinese candidates' political debate, to be televised live on Chinese TV this Saturday, and 13 out of 20 who originally came from mainland China list "loyalty to China" as most important.

This is the distinct difference between Chinese voters who were originally from China, and the others, who wanted a member who will be able to stand up against racism and discrimination.

Most were upbeat, and said they were paying more attention to this election because it would probably produce NZ's first constituency Chinese MP and also a crop of Asian MPs.

Some also said they did not consider Shanghai-born National MP Pansy Wong - currently the only MP of Chinese descent - to be Chinese enough.

"Pansy Wong grew up in Hong Kong and came to New Zealand too long ago, so I don't think she understands the new China," said retail assistant Zhang Hui, 28, from Beijing. "Pansy did not attend a pro-Beijing Olympic rally at Aotea Square in April and that is a sign that she is not loyal to China, and that's also why I am not giving her my support."

Property manager Iris Yu, 33, of Belmont, said: "New Zealand is our second home, but China is where our roots are, so of course if someone wants to represent us, then the person has to be from there."

Ms Yu, who is from Liaoning, said she considers former Act MP Kenneth Wang to be the "most Chinese" of the candidates - but is disappointed that she will not be able to play a part in helping to get him into Parliament as he is not on the Act Party list, and she doesn't live in Botany, where he is standing.

The secretary of the United Chinese Associations of New Zealand, Jim He, said this line of thinking among mainland Chinese voters is a result of the country's historical past.

"When China was weak nobody took notice of us, but now that China is strong, governments and people everywhere want a part of it. So, of course, the expectation of a Chinese MP here from the community is that he or she also supports the Chinese Government," he said.

However, for Chinese voters not from the mainland, being able to stand up against racism and discrimination ranked as the most important quality they looked for in a Chinese MP.

"I want someone who can fight discrimination against the Chinese and who can tell employers to base their employment decisions on the merit of the applicants rather than their names," said Anna Chan, from Malaysia.

Sharon Lim, whose sister is an opposition MP in Singapore, said she was looking for a representative with "cross-communities appeal" who is able to help immigrants find jobs, be recognised in the workforce and help initiate economic start-ups.

The live WTV Chinese candidates' debate, a first for New Zealand, will play a significant role in helping Chinese voters decide who to vote for - and more than two-thirds who spoke to the Herald said they would be making their decisions only after hearing the contenders.

* The debate (in Mandarin) will be this Saturday on Sky 304, Freeview CTV8 and Asian Voice Radio AM936.

CANDIDATES IN THE SPOTLIGHT

PANSY WONG (NATIONAL)
After making history in 1996 by becoming NZ's first Asian MP (off the party list), Pansy Wong is hoping to become our first Asian constituency MP by winning the Botany seat.

"I am working hard to earn the privilege of being Botany's MP to prove that ethnicity doesn't matter when it comes to representation," she said.

Born in Shanghai, Mrs Wong grew up in Hong Kong and moved to New Zealand in 1974. She graduated from Canterbury University with a master of commerce (honours) degree.

Mrs Wong says she'll be telling voters on Saturday that National holds the same values as the Chinese and ethnic communities and that under a National Government, they'll be active contributors and not just bystanders.

RAYMOND HUO (LABOUR)
At No 21 on Labour's list, lawyer and journalist Raymond Huo is almost certain of a seat in Parliament.

Originally from Beijing, Mr Huo moved to New Zealand in 1994 and worked in a number of jobs, including as a reporter at the Herald. He is now a senior associate at Queen City Law.

He said it was the encouragement of members of the Chinese community that led him into politics.

"They felt I was a good role model, as a high-profile migrant journalist and lawyer, and a good leader to represent them," Mr Huo said.

He is standing for Labour because of its vision of strong and inclusive communities.

KENNETH WANG (ACT)
Kenneth Wang became New Zealand's second Chinese MP when he entered Parliament in 2004 as an Act list MP to replace Donna Awatere Huata.

He is not on Act's list this year and will need to win in Botany to get back in.

Mr Wang is telling voters that a vote for him is a vote to get two MPs to represent them, arguing that Pansy Wong is already "safe" on National's list and will return to Parliament.

"Ethnicity has nothing to do with my strategy, but a vote for me will get them two of the best candidates standing there, who just happen to be Chinese," he said.

He declined to be interviewed for this story.

SIMON KAN (KIWI PARTY)
Businessman Simon Kan, No 3 on the Kiwi Party list, says his strongest asset is his ability to connect with all four broad groups of Chinese voters.

"The Chinese can be divided into four groups, those from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the others, and my biggest asset is I can understand and communicate with all of them," he said.

Born in Canton in 1943, Mr Kan studied in Hong Kong and did his military training in Taiwan before migrating to New Zealand in 1985.

He chose the Kiwi Party because it "is based on a moral foundation and it has practical policies and solutions".

If elected, he says he would strive to help minority groups get better political recognition and ensure no one was excluded from society.