Interview: "There's no place for racism in New Zealand": Race Relations Commissioner

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-07 13:03:03|Editor: huaxia
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by Li Huizi

WELLINGTON, May 7 (Xinhua) -- There have been many reports of racially motivated assaults on local Chinese and Asian people recently in New Zealand and the Human Rights Commission is monitoring the situation closely to ensure the assaults will be stopped and prevented, New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said Thursday.

Several assaults and name-calling towards people of Chinese and Asian origin have been reported across New Zealand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in January. "It is absolutely unacceptable for people in Aotearoa to be subject to this type of conduct," Foon said in an email interview with Xinhua.

The Human Rights Commission is committed to helping to "make New Zealand a safe and inclusive community for everyone who lives here," he said.

Since January, there have been many reports of people of Chinese and Asian origin in New Zealand experiencing racism and xenophobia because of COVID-19. These reports continued through the level 4 lockdown, according to Foon.

The Commission has received 311 enquiries and complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic between January and May 5.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is very concerned about the situation, Foon said.

"Anyone would feel unsafe if they are subjected to name calling, verbal abuse or physical assault. When these behaviours are racially motivated then that is further cause for concern," he said.

Sammy Zhu, a 60-year-old photographer working for New Zealand Messenger, a Christchurch-based Chinese-English newspaper, was attacked on April 28 in Christchurch city centre. Zhu's left eye was seriously injured and his face was covered with blood.

Police arrested a 34-year-old man in relation to the attack on Wednesday. The man has been charged with assault and will appear in Christchurch District Court next Monday.

"I even greeted him when I passed by before he attacked me. It was all very sudden," Zhu said.

On April 29, a day after Zhu's incident, an elderly East Asian man was also assaulted in a park in Lynfield, Auckland. Police have caught the attacker but the victim left the scene.

The aim of both attacks is unclear. However, the attacker in the Auckland incident said to the victim "it's all because of you."

"I am monitoring this situation closely and I am in contact with the Police and have made my concerns about the racist undercurrent to COVID-19, known to the government. I want to know what government is doing to ensure COVID-19 related racism does not become the norm. Bullying, harassment and assaults must be stopped and prevented," Foon said.

"The Human Rights Commission has an important role to play supporting communities. We encourage members of the public to contact us where they feel they have been discriminated against. This includes situations that might fall within the sections of the Human Rights Act that prohibit the incitement of racial disharmony," Foon said.

Foon also highlighted the potential of increased racism and bullying at school because of COVID-19, and has been lobbying the government for compulsory bullying prevention programmes in every school.

As well as receiving complaints about unlawful discrimination, one of the other roles we have is advocating more generally for harmonious relations between the different groups and people who live in New Zealand. This includes working with communities and other organisations to find out the causes of racism and intolerance and to identify ways that it can be prevented, the commissioner said.

“Whakamutua te kaikiri ki Aotearoa - there’s no place for racism in Aotearoa,” Foon added, using Maori. Enditem