A prominent New Zealand party leader has been accused of racism after making a joke about Asians as he expressed his objection to China's investment in agriculture. New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters told the audience at a campaign launch last August 10 that he supported efforts to tighten restrictions on foreign ownership.
Peters told the audience in a "joking" manner, "as they say in Beijing, two Wongs don't make a white." The statement has been described as "disappointing and shameful" by New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy. The ACT party had accused Peters of rousing hatred among voters against the Chinese ahead of the September election.
ACT Deputy Leader Kenneth Wang said Peters may think his "joke" was funny but the New Zealand Chinese community does not share the same view. Wang added that Peters might have encouraged racists in New Zealand to attack the Chinese community. He said he received reports of Chinese women being abused on the streets. He was also aware of teens going inside Chinese shops to abuse shop keepers.
Peters has previously warned that New Zealand may be turning into an "Asian colony". He is known for his staunch support of anti-immigration campaigns. He told his critics to have a sense of humour and claimed the joke was originally told to him by a Chinese man in Beijing.
Peters said the Chinese man thought it was a joke and insisted there was nothing racist about what he said.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key remarked that Peters was being "deliberately provocative" in his attempt to gain attention as the election was nearly a month away. Mr Key told TVNZ that Peters made that remark to incite "outrage" to get his message across.
According to reports, the statement, "two Wongs don't make white" was associated with Arthur Calwell, the former Australian prime minister and a strong advocate of "White Australia." Australia adopted this immigration policy until the 1970s.
Devoy thought it was "shameful" for a political leader to make racist comments.