Election 2020: It’s good to have Chinese candidates but Chinese voters vote for policies

Both Labour and National have swiftly selected new Chinese candidates as their representatives of the Chinese community after Raymond Huo and Dr. Jian Yang announced respectively to resign at the upcoming election. So who are the new candidates? Journalist Portia Mao takes a look.

It is such a coincidence that the new candidates of the two parties are both 1.5 generation immigrants from mainland China, they both graduated from Auckland University, both are females and they are both likely to be MPs after the election.

It is a big surprise that Nancy Lu is the highest-ranked new National candidate on the list in 26th place among 76. 

Peter Goodfellow President of National Party and Nancy Lu National Chinese candidate2

President of National Party Peter Goodfellow and National candidate Nancy Lu. Photo: Portia Mao

Dr. Jian Yang , a three-term MP was bumped up the party’s list from 33 to 27 only after Todd Muller became the party leader in May this year. The outgoing Chinese MP said he felt very relieved to see Nancy Lu’s high ranking, which shows National “values and respects the Chinese community”.

According to Dr. Yang, Nancy Lu was a long-time National supporter and she was among the early ones to join in the Blue Dragon - a group of National supporters from the Chinese community set up by the controversial Chinese MP in 2016. 

Naisi Chen, the vice president of the youth wing of the Young Labour was placed at number 38 of the party list, which means she is likely to be an MP after October election. No wonder the 26-year-old candidate has already been given “security briefing” by New Zealand Security Intelligence Service – a security training for every new MP – even before she enters parliament.

Chen said it showed the Labour party was trying to “protect” her so that she “wouldn’t be influenced by some countries or public opinions” as she had little political experience.

Chen chose to join the Labour Party mainly because of her Christianity belief. Her father was an Auckland-based priest and she has attended church since she was a child. She said New Zealand's first Labour prime minister Michael Joseph Savage impressed her deeply and she believed Labour Party was about “applied Christianity”.

Raymond Huo and Naisi Chen

Outgoing Labour MP Raymond Huo with new Labour candidate Naisi Chen. Photo: Portia Mao

Chen immigrated to New Zealand at the age of 5 in 1999 when Helen Clark came to power. She said she was lucky to grow up under a Labour government.

As a New Zealand politician with a Chinese background, would it be difficult for her if Labour government’s foreign policies upset China?

Her answer is: “Labour listens to people’s voice and most of the time, Labour’s foreign policies are based on the voice of the majority of New Zealanders.

“I have sworn to be loyal to New Zealand when I became a New Zealand citizen. Labour always has a good relationship with China and the leaders know China well. It is not a big deal to have different opinions with China on some issues as we also have different views with Australia given the two countries are so close with each other. We will explore the best possible way that would benefit New Zealand in the 21st century. It won’t be hard for me so long as I stick to my values.  “

Chen said she can bring Labour information that it may not get elsewhere. She is a board member of Foundation North and Auckland Philharmonica Orchestra. She is keen to have more female and ethnic board members in big organisations as she believes women and ethnic people could contribute more to New Zealand at the board level.  

Her Chinese communication skill is much better than most of the 1.5 generation immigrants. She is confident that she could serve people well, no matter what their language and cultural backgrounds are.

She said the electorate was so “diverse” and she “could look after people in the relatively poor community like Clover Park that might be neglected by the National MP.”

Naidi Chen

Labour candidate Naisi Chen.

Naisi Chen was president of New Zealand Chinese Student Association when she studied law at Auckland University. With this position, she automatically became vice president of the Auckland Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), an official organisation for overseas Chinese students and scholars.

This global organisation is believed to be overseen by the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department.

Similar to Chen, Nancy Lu has been a board member and leader of a student association. She was a board member of CNSST Foundation, which offers support to New Zealand Asian new settlers. She was vice president of AIESEC of Auckland University, one of the largest global, student-led organisations focused on youth leadership development.

Unlike Chen’s father, Nancy’s father is a current affairs commentator for local Chinese TV. He is well-known for his pro-Beijing stance and believes the “Hong Kong Security Law is necessary and One Country must be above Two System”. However, her father stopped his commentary a month ago, for reasons that are unclear.  

An article published by People's Daily (Overseas Edition) (official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China) in December 2016 said “Nancy Lu’s father had profound influence on her from Chinese culture to politics and current affairs.” Lu told People's Daily that her father “has always played an important role”.

Nancy Lu worked for Ernst & Young and PwC from 2012–2015 after she graduated from Auckland University. This was followed by two years working as Finance Manager and Company Secretary at COSCO Shipping Lines NZ – a Chinese state-owned company in New Zealand. Two years later, she was working as General Manager of NZNL, NZ Subsidiary of China Dashang Co., Ltd. the largest retailer group in China, till now.  

However, her last five years’ experience working for two Chinese companies were not mentioned at all in Dr. Jian Yang’s announcement of Nancy Lu being the National Party candidate.

A Chinese voter said he didn’t understand why the National Party acted so hastily to find a Chinese candidate and he didn’t understand why Lu received such a high ranking.

Another Chinese voter said people vote for policies, not for Chinese faces, and it would be stupid to think Chinese voters vote for a political party merely because it has a Chinese candidate.

A senior Chinese media person pointed out that both Labour and National would like to find some capable person with a mainland China background who would be accepted by the Chinese government as its candidate, because China is our largest trading partner.

However, the members the parliament are the representative of people after all.   

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.  

Asia Media Centre