New Zealand's Chinese population needs more representation in Parliament to help foster a better understanding between different communities, argues the chairman for Auckland's Chinese Community Centre.
In an interview with The AM Show on Monday, Kai-Shek Luey addressed the recent rise in racially-motivated attacks against people of Asian descent. There have been a number of high-profile, violent incidents throughout New Zealand's COVID-19 outbreak, exacerbated partly by misconceptions surrounding the virus.
"There were some very bad incidents... the worst part is in America, with Trump and his ravings, calling it the 'China virus' and what not. They've had it real bad over there," Luey said.
"As soon as there's something that [people] fear, of course that comes into it."
When asked by host Duncan Garner how New Zealanders could actively improve their "understanding" of the country's Chinese community, Luey suggested that political representation is imperative to fostering knowledge and awareness.
"You need someone in Parliament... for people to feel comfortable in New Zealand, the Chinese, they [need] to feel they've got a voice available to [represent] our concerns," Luey explained.
His claims follow the announcement of National MP Dr Jian Yang's retirement on Friday following a nine-year tenure in Parliament. As a result, Yang will not be standing in the September election as a list MP.
"Unfortunately, Dr Jian Yang has decided not to restand," Luey said. "I've got a lot of respect for Jian."
Yang's departure leaves Labour list MP Raymond Huo as the only other Chinese MP in Parliament.
A Newshub Because it Matters investigation on Sunday revealed the devastating impacts on New Zealanders attacked in incidents of racially-motivated violence. The Human Rights Commission information line has seen a 30 percent spike in reports of racially-motivated attacks, with a clear link to fears and ignorance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asian Family Services - a national helpline and counselling service - had nearly 400 calls last month, more than double their 162 calls in May. Demand is so high, there's a waitlist for callbacks to people of all ages.
Research commissioned by the service's national director, Kelly Feng, found 43.9 percent of Asians living in New Zealand have experienced some form of mental health distress since the beginning of COVID-19 lockdown in March.
Luey says New Zealand's Chinese community experiences aggression "all the time".
"The Chinese that come over here don't really make any stirrings at all. We just want a peaceful life here and [to] be law-abiding citizens. Over the years, there's been institutionalised racism against Chinese in New Zealand," he said.
"We do [find it hurtful], especially us born here in New Zealand. This is the only place we really know."
In his statement on Friday, Dr Yang said it has been an "honour" to represent the Chinese community as a National MP in Parliament, and is proud to have helped the community better understand and participate in New Zealand politics.
"I will continue to support New Zealand's hard-working Chinese community outside of caucus," he said.
Dr Yang made headlines across the globe after admitting in 2017 to training Chinese spies so they could monitor other countries' communications.
He once taught at the People's Liberation Army-Air Force Engineering College, and spent time at the Luoyang Language Institute, run by the Third Department, which carries out spying activities for China.
It was later revealed he did not disclose his links to the schools in his citizenship applications and instead described them as "partner" universities which had a relationship with military institutions.
Dr Yang denied ever being a spy and denied ever having intelligence training.