NZ Chinese support Australian racism apology

By Lincoln Tan

Kai Luey, of the New Zealand Chinese Association, said local Chinese leaders here are supportive of Australia apologising for past racism. Photo / Richard Robinson
Kai Luey, of the New Zealand Chinese Association, said local Chinese leaders here are supportive of Australia apologising for past racism. Photo / Richard Robinson

Chinese Australians seeking an official apology for the country's history of racism towards their forefathers have the support of New Zealand Chinese leaders.

In 2002, then-Prime Minister Helen Clark made a formal apology to the New Zealand Chinese for making their ancestors pay poll tax and suffer other discrimination imposed by statutes.

Now Chinese groups in Australia are urging the federal government to acknowledge past descrimination against the Chinese there, from the poll tax to the dictation test which was designed to trip non-native English speakers.

Kai Luey, a key member of the New Zealand Chinese Association, said local Chinese leaders here are supportive for those in Australia to receive a similar apology from its government.

The Australian policies which started in the 1850s Gold Rush continued through the "White Australia" policy, and were abolished only in 1973.

Chinese Heritage Association of Australia president Daphne Lowe Kelley said an apology would "get rid of the last vestiges of white superiority".

She wrote on her association's website: "An apology for the discriminatory legislation that affected the Chinese for nearly 120 years would be welcome and bring closure to this sad period of Australia's history."

Ms Lowe Kelley, who studied in New Zealand and still has brothers living in Auckland, first made a call for an apology in a newspaper article she wrote to mark the 150th anniversary of anti-Chinese riots at goldfields in New South Wales.

"Surely we do not have to wait as long as the first citizens of this country to get an apology and be recognised for the contributions we have made to the country we call home," she said.

Mr Luey was New Zealand's representative at a conference in April where it made plans to make a request to Prime Minister Julia Gillard by the heritage association.

It is expected to be joined by the Chinese Community Council of Australia and the Chinese Association Forum.

Nearly 3 per cent of Australians, or 70,000 people, identify themselves as Chinese Australians.

"We think it is appropriate for them to pursue the apology, and they have our support in their attempts to seek some form of redress," Mr Luey said.

"We feel there should be some sort of recognition to acknowledge the discriminatory practices aimed at the Chinese there, just as we have in New Zealand."

In recent years, similar apologies have been made in Canada and the United States.

In 2008, the Rudd government made a formal apology to the generations of Aboriginal children removed from their families by governments and missions, and in 2009, apologised to the 7,000 former child migrants from Britain who suffered abuse and neglect in state-run homes in Australia.

The government has yet to respond to the call for an apology to the Chinese.

- NZ Herald

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