175 years of Chinese history in Aotearoa.

By Tema Hemi

The origins of Race Relations Commissioner Meng Liu Foon hail from Guangzhou an area in which many Chinese immigrants come from who landed here in New Zealand in the 1800s. For 175 years Chinese have embraced New Zealand as their new home and this history has been captured in the 'Being Chinese in Aotearoa' exhibition currently showing in Wellington. 

From all over China they came in their droves in search of a new home. 

Foon says, "There were many of Chinese immigrants that came to Aotearoa, the Government were anxious, the Pākeha community were not happy about it at the time and petitioned the Government to stop Chinese immigration into the country."

20 year old Appo Hocton was New Zealands first Chinese settler and like Meng Foon's elders came to New Zealand to find work, as many did in the 1800's as part of New Zealands goldrush era.

Foon also says, "My uncle arrived in 1935 and that was the beginning for my family. My uncle then asked his brother, my father to come over and he arrived in 1947. He lived here in Gisborne and worked in the vege gardens at Matawhero. 

Richard Foy is a third generation Chinese New Zealander whos ancestors were subjected to a 'poll tax' parliament passed in 1851. Many Chinese of the time felt discriminated against.

Foy says, "At the time my grandfather came to New Zealand he paid a hundred pounds which is I think about a years wages and roughly around $15.000. 

In the 2013 census in New Zealand, the size of the Chinese population in New Zealand stood at approximately 171,000. More are learning te reo and Māori culture every year. 

Foy also says, "Everything I've learned about te ao Māori, and Māori culture, and what it means to be Chinese is that we share a lot of similar principals and values, and culturally have a lot of similarities."

Chinese have endured much success in New Zealand. NZ MP Dr Jian Wong, rugby coach Pat Lam and writer Alison Wong are just a few among others that are well recognised throughout the country. 

"Having a voice and being seen as actually an intrical part of New Zealand", Foy said.

Foon had this to say in conclusion, "I acknowledge the Government led by Helen Clarke who was responsible for the official Government apology for the tax laws that  descriminated against Chinese immigrants in the 1800s."

The Being Chinese in Aotearoa exhibition is open to the general public at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery until Saturday 25 January, the Chinese New Year.