By MONIQUE DEVEREUX

Hock Lee has first-hand experience of racist attitudes in Christchurch.

When shopping with his 8-year-old daughter in the city one day last year, a car stopped beside them.

"Do you wanna fight?" shouted the large man inside the car as a woman and small child watched, laughing and giving Mr Lee the fingers.

Mr Lee walked away but his daughter was frightened and upset by the encounter.

Another day he was leaving a supermarket when he noticed a car blocking the entrance. A man driving past stopped and yelled at Mr Lee to move it.

"Why did he think it was my car? I said 'That isn't my car' and instead of apologising he showed me the finger."

"In 2 1/2 years I have had so many of these experiences - enough to fill a lifetime."

So when a young Vietnamese girl was punched on a Christchurch street and left crying on the footpath, Mr Lee said he could immediately identify with her experience.

"And sadly it is quite a short step from what I experienced to what this young girl has - the violence. It really troubles me because I have never experienced anything like this anywhere before."

To fight back he organised today's anti-racism march in the central city. But he says the city leaders are still not listening to what he is trying to say.

"They don't want to hear about a racial problem. They want to show harmony.

"Well, I say you have to accept the problem before you can move on to solve it. And we are a long way from harmony."

Mr Lee and his wife, Joanne, moved to Christchurch from Malaysia almost three years ago.

He is a lawyer, qualified to work in Malaysia and as a barrister in England, where he spent 10 years. His preferred field is contractual law and he is sitting the exams to be able to practice in New Zealand. Until then he will continue to work in legal aid.

The family live in a modest, tidy home. Records of the children's academic and sporting achievements dot the living room walls.

Mr Lee's English is word-perfect but the accent is undeniably Asian. And that is all it takes, he believes, to rile some people.

He has reported incidents to police, mainly to show his children something can be done about racial abuse.

But he has never been satisfied with the police response.

"There is a reluctance to pursue this kind of thing because they see it as a schoolboy prank or similar, just one of those isolated incidents.

"There is an amount of acceptance as well ... they are almost saying 'In time to come you'll be all right'. "Such conduct should not be condoned and people acting this way should be prosecuted. It should be taken seriously."

Herald Feature: Sharing a Country

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