Muslim network says $2m donation for Christchurch victims should go to persecuted Uighur people instead

A Muslim women's network says an enormous donation for Christchurch victims from a Chinese delegation should be returned.

On March 15, the day of the country's deadliest mass shooting, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff attended a dinner for delegates of the Teochew International Federation.

He arrived late because, as he explained to the delegates, he had been meeting with police and the Muslim community in the hours after the massacre that killed 50 people.

On the spot, the delegates pledged to donate almost $500,000 to those affected by the shooting. That sum grew to $2.1m as other delegates chipped in.

One of the donors was controversial businessman Zhang Yikun, notorious for his entanglement in last year's feud between Jami-Lee Ross and the National party.

Mayor Goff passed on the donation to the Christchurch Foundation fund 'Our People, Our City', and called the gesture an "extraordinarily generous offer to the people of Christchurch and the Muslim community from a small community in New Zealand".

But the Khadija Leadership Network is calling for the donation to be returned and the money to go to the Uighur people, a persecuted ethnic minority in China.

In a petition addressed to the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, Mayor Goff and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), the network said the donation would combat Islamophobia more effectively if used elsewhere.

"Though a deeply heartfelt gesture, we are calling for a very specific request for how this generous donation should be used," the petition read.

It said because millions have already been raised to help the shooting victims via crowdfunding websites Launch Good and Givealittle, as well as financial aid from the Government, the Teochew donation should instead be used to help the Uighurs - most of whom are Muslim.

Human Rights Watch says Uighur people are subjected to intense surveillance from the Chinese government, and approximately one million are being held in 're-education' or internment camps.

"Many in the Muslim community wish instead to address the plight of Uighur Muslims and take a stand against Islamophobia," the network's petition reads.

"Though we understand this generous donation isn't money from the Chinese government, we still firmly believe that the best assistance from any community that Muslims could receive is to call out Islamophobia, and stop the persecution of those practicing the Islamic faith around the world."

The petition calls the Uighur camps "the Auschwitz of contemporary times", and accused the New Zealand Government of turning a blind eye to injustice because of our historical links and business ties to China.

"As New Zealanders we have already lost our 50. We are simply calling for us all to lead in being a voice for those incarcerated for practising Islam."

FIANZ has been approached for comment.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will travel to China on Sunday to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping amid speculation of a soured relationship.

She hasn't confirmed if she'll raise the issue of the Uighur people.