Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Pansy Speak: Learning lessons from tragedy

Pansy Speak

Learning lessons from tragedy

The speed with which arrests were made in the murder of Chinese student Wan Biao will no doubt be of relief to his family, as well as international education providers. This sector is once again facing the effects that uninformed negative publicity bring – they are left to battle against the tide on their own in situations like this because of the Government’s indifferent attitude towards international education.

Since the discovery of Wan Biao’s body I have read much about this tragic loss of life. Baseless comments about the murder being a ‘Triad hit’ has reduced a very sad situation to tabloid fodder. Police have said there is no evidence of gang connections, but this didn’t stop the usual lines being drawn between Asian crime and triad gangs.

I expect I will receive mail from people asking me to take responsibility for this crime committed by ‘my people’. Amazingly, writers like these believe New Zealand had no crime until Asian people arrived. The sad thing is that the victims of Asian crime are almost all Asian, and the Asian community is therefore very anxious about putting a stop to it.

The flatmate of the late Wan Biao has been quoted as saying “I just don’t want people to think all Chinese people are killers, murderers. Sometimes it’s very hard for us. We didn’t do anything but people think we do something bad”. This person is an international student who has been in New Zealand for only a short time and has already developed a defensive attitude of expecting the worst. It is time for us to reflect on how foreign youngsters are being treated here.

Many messages have been posted on local Chinese language websites lamenting the loss of a young life, with many cursing the accused, society and a lax justice system. There are also explicit comments warning potential students about the risks of studying in New Zealand. Throw in baseless comments about gang connections, and these messages take on a more sinister meaning.

We live in a global world where information is shared in seconds, and where rumours and malicious gossip can be taken as gospel. The only way to counteract these ‘Chinese whispers’ is for authorities to release timely and accurate information to allow people to make their own conclusions.

In this case, I acknowledge this is what the Police did. What is needed now is for them to extend this communication to our ethnic media, particularly when speakers of another language are involved. This kind of information would ensure that any reports are based on accurate information. I know that some Chinese websites have had to gather their information second-hand from English sources during the investigation.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says ‘”A tiger becomes real when three people say it”. During the past few days some of our newspapers have trotted out the usual line that Asians don’t like to report crime, along with undue speculation about gang-related killings (probably spurred on by comments made by various MPs). In this case, the parents of Wan Biao contacted Police in China immediately about the ransom demand, and the Police have dismissed gang connections.

These kinds of comments don’t do the Asian community any good or help comfort the grieving family. Making stereotypical statements that Asians don’t like to report crime only leads them to being targeted by criminals. The truth is that I regularly hear from people who have reported crimes (especially burglary) only for their cases to be seemingly ignored by the Police. This also happens in other organisations – a group of driving instructors complained to the Land Transport New Zealand about the drivers’ license scam a couple of years ago but their concerns fell on deaf ears.

Last year, I tabled in the House a copy of advertisements that were published in Chinese newspapers guaranteeing that those sitting their drivers’ licence test would pass on the first go and could choose their testing officer. The Minister and his department said they would begin monitoring ethnic newspapers for these ads. Well, I have news for them – these ads are still being placed and the company involved hands out business cards promising that people can choose their own testing officers. It is clear that complaints made by Asians aren’t taken seriously.

What we need to understand is that in certain circumstances people don’t report crime because they fear their lives will be put at risk because they don’t have confidence their situation will be taken seriously. Language barriers, accessibility, and respect for the authorities, and vice versa, all play a part in this.

I am hopeful that our new Police Commissioner, Howard Broad, will help turn this situation around, because he was instrumental in putting together the Asian Police strategy in Auckland in 2000. In the case of Wan Biao, good work by the police and information coming in from Chinese international students were important factors in the early arrests. I am hopeful that this level of co-operation will set a benchmark for any future cases.

Pansy Wong


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Werewolf: What Does Winston Peters Want His Legacy To Be?

A lot of people in New Zealand seem to resent Winston Peters and the power that he appears to have. “Appears” being the operative word. In reality, Peters will have power only up to the point that he uses it.

By next week, he’ll have become just another junior player in an MMP governing arrangement, battling to hold onto the gains he was promised. More>>


Rising Toll: Road Safety Needs To Be A Higher Priority

Official advice released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that the previous National Government dismissed an option to make road safety its most important transport priority after being told the road toll was rising. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election