New Zealand Police will talk to people who made comments on a Chinese social media site encouraging others to arm themselves and form vigilante groups.

The Herald has been told that more than 10 groups have been formed through the platform WeChat, with members based by location.

Sign up to our daily Covid-19 newsletter for essential advice and a full summary of the day's news and developments. Register or sign in here and select Top News Stories

A perceived rise in anti-Chinese sentiments over the Covid-19 outbreak was one of the reasons for the formation of the groups, one member told the Herald.


Counties Manukau Police Inspector Wendy Spiller said police were aware of some of the comments.

Covid-19 coronavirus: Travel details of latest confirmed cases revealed
Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown: Auckland driver faces charges after police stop him twice
Covid 19 coronavirus: More than 1000 deaths in US, amid incomplete reporting
Covid-19 coronavirus: How scientists stop the virus explained

"The nature of some of the comments is concerning," Spiller said.

"Police are making inquiries into this matter. We will be following up with the people who have posted these messages."

She warned that anyone making threats online could face prosecution under the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

"We ask anyone who is aware of concerning content online, which threatens the safety of themselves or others, to contact police," she said.

"Police also want to reassure the community that we will have an increased presence on the streets conducting regular patrols to check that those people out in public over this period have an essential reason for doing so."

One group member told the Herald there had been an increase in online attacks against the Chinese in recent days, and the groups were a way of "protecting ourselves".


She said the groups also supported members in other ways too, including contactless delivery of groceries to those who could not go to supermarkets.

"My friend's husband was abused by a person yelling at him to 'go back to China' in Tokoroa and another posted in her group that her Botany house was broken into. Jewelry, earphones and even masks [were] stolen the day before the lockdown.

"The groups allow us to communicate with others close by when such unsafe situations happen to us too." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Many angry responses were also made to screenshots circulated among the groups of a Facebook post by a New Zealand woman who blamed China for the coronavirus and vowed never to buy anything made in China again.

"Many of us are beginning to feel increasingly unsafe," she said.

Whau Local Board deputy chairwoman Susan Zhu said she raised concerns with the police over people queuing to buy guns before the lockdown.

"I can understand that people are feeling vulnerable and feel the need to be protected, but we should all take a step back and calm down."

She said the WeChat groups provided the sense of security needed by some in the community, and should be used positively "to support one another".

"No one should be targeting any other racial group, and if there's a problem, people should just call the police."

Spiller said police officers have a number of powers available to them if necessary to maintain law and order and keep the community safe.

"Our message to the community remains the same – stay home and stay calm over the lockdown period.

"The best thing you can do for the safety of everyone around you is to stay at home."