Monday, August 21, 2006

Kiwi Asian voices

Auckland's freebie 'community' newspapers are a pretty miserable bunch: full of advertarticles and reports on golden wedding anniversaries, they are usually only useful if one has run out of lining for the kitty litter box.

Luckily iBall, a new English-language weekly aimed primarily at the city's Asian community, is a different story. The two issues I've seen have between them tackled half a dozen interesting subjects, from the nefarious activities of the Moonie cult in New Zealand to domestic violence against women in immigrant communities to anti-Asian racism in the Pakeha community. And unlike the Granny Herald and most other Kiwi rags, iBall is actually able to find some literate and provocative letters to the editor to print.

Looking at the latest issue of the paper, I am particularly taken by a letter from one Paul AC Teo, who takes issue with contributing editor Lincoln Tan's view that Chinese immigrants needed to do more to adjust to life in New Zealand. The Chinese community in Auckland is often regarded as conservative, and is targeted by right-wing parties like Act and National, but Teo shows a strong awareness of the phoniness of much of the talk from the right about the need to instil 'Western values' in new immigrants to this country. (That's not to say Teo's letter doesn't have its wobbly bits - I find his remark about white women and feminism a bit fishy.)

Since iBall doesn't appear to exist online I've reproduced Teo's piece below.

Conflicting views due to different backgrounds

I would like to comment on the conflicting views between Lincoln Tan and Chinese people, which can be attributed to their different historical, ideological, political and social backgrounds.

Lincoln and I were from former British colonies - Malaysia and Singapore - and were both educated under the British system. Before I came to New Zealand, I was subjected to British (Anglo-Saxon) ethnocentric views about the world - the British were the best people and good colonisers. In the twelve years I have lived in New Zealand, I have had the opportunity to experience, study, reflect and to challenge British colonial propaganda, which had distorted my view for the last forty-five years of my life.

As Asians, we are a vulnerable people subjected to power dynamics in New Zealand's dominant culture. Our young children are called 'Ching Chong' at school. We are stereotyped as 'Asian criminals' and 'bad drivers' in the media although statistically we represent only about 6% of the crime problem as compared with other ethnic groups. Our Asian women are also being sought by white males because they are not a threat to their masculinity, compared to their white female counterparts who espouse feminism.

Recently a dominant white male politician [Don Brash, of course] stated that migrants who opposed New Zealand's bedrock values should not be allowed to stay in this country. Is that democracy? Democracy exists as long as the minority follows the dominant ideology. If threatened, a big hammer will be wielded. For example, when Maori showed their maturity by voting for their own party, what is the repercussion from those in power? The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which took years of painful progress to be incorporated into legislation, are going to be removed by the majority in parliament.

Recently I was invited to the independence day celebrations of an African country. A minister said in passing that the British coloniers were at least better than other colonisers. I heard from my Samoan friend that the German treated them better than the New Zealand government. We should engage and hear stories from other ethnic minority groups who have lived in this country a long time to get to know the full reality of life in this country.

Lincoln Tan should understand that the Chinese view is ethnocentric and their experiences are authentic and genuine.

Paul AC Teo
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