New Zealander

Chinese New Zealander

A Chinese New Zealander (Traditional Chinese: 華裔紐西蘭人; Simplified Chinese: 华裔新西兰人) is a New Zealander of Chinese heritage. They are part of the ethnic Chinese diaspora (or Overseas Chinese). Chinese New Zealanders are the fifth largest ethnic group in New Zealand.

The first records of ethnic Chinese in New Zealand were the immigrants from Guangdong Province, who arrived during the 1860s goldrush era. Due to this historical influx, there is still a distinct Chinese community in the Southern city of Dunedin, whose current mayor Peter Chin is of Chinese descent. However, most Chinese New Zealanders live in the North Island, and are of more recent migrant heritage. Chinese New Zealanders may broadly be defined into two categories; the earlier generation, and recent or temporary migrants that have arrived since the 1980s.

At the last census in 2006, Chinese New Zealanders accounted for 3.7% of the total population, the largest Asian ethnic group in New Zealand (approx 42% of all Asian New Zealanders). As at the 2001 Census, 75% of Chinese in New Zealand were born overseas. In 2002, the New Zealand Government publicly apologised to the Chinese for the poll tax that had been levied on their ancestors a century ago.


Early Immigrants

The first immigration to New Zealand took place on the strength of two invitations from New Zealand's Otago goldmining region to potential goldminers of Guangdong province in 1865. These original goldmining communities suffered discrimination due to racist ideology, the economic competition they represented to the Europeans, and because of the implied 'disloyalty' within their transient, sojourner outlook. While many believe there was a 'White New Zealand' policy similar to Australia's, New Zealand never had such a policy openly sanctioned and was open to Pacific Island immigration from its early history. However in the 1880s, openly sinophobic political ideology resulted in the New Zealand head tax, also known as the 'Poll Tax', aimed specifically at Chinese migrants. Despite official barriers the Chinese still managed to develop their communities in this period, and numbers were bolstered when some wives and children from Guangdong Province were allowed in as refugees just before World War II. Chain migration from Guangdong continued until the new Communist Chinese regime stopped emigration. This original group of Cantonese migrants and their descendants are referred to in New Zealand as 'Old Generation' Chinese, and are now a minority within the overall Chinese population.

After the Second World War

Ethnic Chinese communities from countries other than China began establishing themselves in New Zealand between the 1960s and 1980s. These included ethnic Chinese refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos following the conflicts and upheavals in those countries; Commonwealth (ie English educated) professional migrants from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia; and Samoan Chinese as part of the substantial Pacific labour migrations of the 1970s.

Between 1987-96, a fundamental change in New Zealand’s immigration policy led to a substantial influx of ethnic Chinese business, investor, and professional migrants, particularly from Hong Kong and Taiwan. This period saw a spike in overall migration from the Asian region, including other Chinese people from East Asia and Southeast Asia. New Zealand's immigration system increasingly experienced the impact of global events, such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the fall of Suharto.

Recent issues

The nationalist New Zealand First Party fought the 1996 general election on an anti-immigration and very thinly veiled 'anti-Asian' platform , winning the balance of power and altering immigration policy towards skills-based immigration. From the late 1990s to the 2000s, skilled migrants from Mainland China became the new significant demographic group of Chinese immigrants.

International students

Mainland Chinese in New Zealand also include a substantial population of international students completing tertiary qualifications. These students, viewed by some as temporary residents, are often socially isolated from both mainstream and Chinese New Zealander society. There has been media reports of these groups facing victimisation from within their own communities as well as from the population as a whole, and as being involved in Asian crime syndicates. Similarly, 1.5 generation Hong Kong migrant youths who engaged in low-level criminal activity in the 1990s, were also mistakenly considered to be professional 'Triads' by much of the non-Chinese public at that time.

However, despite much speculation, the political and administrative status of Chinese international students as non-residents has hampered the undertaking of verifiable research about their health, societal wellbeing or their actual level of involvement in crime.



As of the most recent census, the majority of the overseas-born Chinese were under 25 years of age, and 12% had lived in New Zealand for less than one year. The median age of the Chinese ethnic group in New Zealand is younger than the national average.


According to the 2001 Census, New Zealand-born Chinese had a higher median income (NZ$20,200) than other New Zealanders (NZ$18,500), but overseas-born Chinese New Zealanders had a median income less than half of the national median (NZ$7,900).

According to the 2006 Social Report (New Zealand Ministry of Social Development), based on the 2005 Household Labour Force Survey, the 'Asian and other' category displayed the second-highest level of unemployment after New Zealand's indigenous people (the Māori) and the highest level of underemployment. Possibly reflecting the asset-rich status of migrants as well as their barriers to employment, the 'Asian and other' category was simultaneously one of the most income-poor ethnic categories in the country while also being the ethnic category with the highest access to the internet. (Note: At this time, the 'Other' ethnic groups (Middle Eastern, African and Latin American) comprised less than 1% of the population, and the 'Asian' groups approximately 9%.)

Notable persons


  • Pansy Wong, New Zealand's first ethnic Chinese MP and first Asian MP, 1970s Generation Hong Kong migrant New Zealander of Shanghai heritage
  • Peter Chin, Mayor of Dunedin, 'Old Generation' Cantonese New Zealander
  • Meng Foon, Mayor of Gisborne , 'Old Generation' Cantonese New Zealander

Arts and sports

  • Bic Runga, singer/songwriter, of Māori (indigenous New Zealander) and Chinese Malaysian parentage.
  • Chang, presenter with The Edge radio station.
  • Li Ming Hu, known for her role as Li Mei Chen in New Zealand's popular TV show, Shortland Street, second-generation New Zealander of Singaporean and Taiwanese parentage.
  • Raybon Kan, comedian, second-generation New Zealander of Mainland Chinese parentage.
  • Li Chunli, gold medal-winning table tennis champion, 1980s generation migrant New Zealander and Mainland Chinese.
  • Caleigh Cheung, actress and fashion writer, known for her roles on Shortland Street and Ride with the Devil, New Zealand born Cantonese with Hong Kong and Old Generation parentage.
  • Wing (singer) singer, emigrated from Hong Kong.

Journalists, writers and advocates

  • Mai Chen, prominent constitutional lawyer, Chair of the short-lived Pan Asian Congress of 2002, 1970s generation and 1.5 generation Taiwanese migrant New Zealander
  • Derek Cheng, reporter for the New Zealand Herald, second generation New Zealander of Hong Kong Chinese parentage.
  • Manying Ip, Associate-Professor of the Auckland University School of Asian Studies, community spokesperson during the 'Asian Invasion' 1990s, and author and editor of numerous seminal texts on Chinese people in New Zealand. 1970s 1st Generation Hong Kong migrant New Zealander.
  • Errol Kiong, reporter for Radio New Zealand and the New Zealand Herald, first generation migrant New Zealander and Malaysian Chinese.
  • Tze Ming Mok, cultural commentator, blogger and literary writer; second generation New Zealander of Chinese Singaporean and Malaysian parentage. Leader of a march against white supremacists in Wellington 2004. Editor of the May 2006 issue of Landfall, a New Zealand literary journal
  • Lincoln Tan, senior reporter for the New Zealand Herald, founder of iBall newspaper (iBall has been renamed as ASIAN TODAY after Lincoln's departure); first generation migrant New Zealander and Peranakan Singaporean. Leader of a march against white supremacists in Christchurch 2004.
  • Alison Wong, poet, Old Generation Cantonese.
  • Gilbert Wong, New Zealand's most senior Chinese journalist, for many years New Zealand's only prominent Chinese journalist, Old Generation Cantonese.
  • Steven Young, key figure and leader in the Old Generation Chinese community associations, specifically the Wellington Chinese Association. Known for bucking the 'model minority' impulses of the Old Generation community in the 1990s by speaking out against the New Zealand First Party, for which he was expelled from the Wellington Chinese Association, only to return as its President in later years. Web-archiver of numerous resources on the Old Generation communities.
  • Jack Yan, graphic designer and publisher of fashion magazine Lucire, 1.5 generation Hong Kong migrant New Zealander.
  • Jane Yee, columnist on and C4TV presenter, Chinese and Pakeha New Zealand parentage.

See also


External links

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