Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Christchurch: Job discrimination forces migrants into prostitution, journalism

How lucky we are in Auckland - at least three budding Chinatowns, two little Koreas, and two Chinese reporters ensconced at the Herald itself (and I don't mean the Chinese Herald). One of whom I may not actually be related to. So let's hear it for the plucky invaders sticking it out in Christchurch, where independent journalist Lincoln Tan is a lone voice in the milky wilderness.

Lincoln, a Singaporean (yes, on a roll here...) became so frustrated at being denied job-interviews when he arrived in New Zealand, that he set up his own paper. iBall is Christchurch's only bilingual newspaper, and tackles angles that mainstream media doesn't care for. According to Lincoln, there is still not a single Asian journalist in any mainstream paper in Christchurch.

Some of us like to think this is a fair-minded country, but... Got a Chinky name? Speak fluent English? Good luck getting a job interview. I've been there. To show you how bad it is, I actually wrote this story but had to change my name to Julie Middleton to get it published in the MSM.

And not all migrants discriminated against in the job-market change their name or start their own newspaper. As this month's just-released issue of iBall reports:

['Mimi'] first came to New Zealand as an international student in Auckland, and responded to an advertisement looking for women to work in a gentlemen’s club.

However, Mimi said that she was unprepared for what the working conditions were for massage parlour girls – which was even worse for girls from foreign countries.


She said that she had tried to get a proper job after graduating, but all she received were rejection letters. She then went through a period of depression.

“Nobody wants to become an escort or a prostitute if they have a choice,” Mimi said. “But if we want to support ourselves living in a foreign land, we have to make money. Working underground as a kitchen hand is not going to pay my rent.”

iBall's website is still under construction, but you can email their office and put yourself on the mailing list. Lincoln will be speaking in Banana Auckland on Banana Freedom of Banana Speech & Banana Expression in the Banana Republic session of the Banana Conference. The conference website went live this week, and registrations are filling up fast - be in quick.

Southeast Asians seem a comparatively feisty bunch when let loose on the West. S'porean Lincoln led the Christchurch anti-racism rally of 2004 along with Hock Lee, a Malaysian lawyer. Going down the list of the Asian massive that headed the Wellington repeat of this feat later that year, and you had:

Pancha Narayanan, NZ Federation of Ethnic Councils (Singapore)
Silvia Zonoobi, Multicultural Services Centre/Alay Migrant Community Centre (Philippines)
Lee Tan, Service and Food Workers Union (Malaysia) and,
Me for Multicultural Aotearoa (Singapore/Malaysia/Roskill).

Nanyang represent.

We are probably freaks though. As Lincoln says in the current iBall editorial:

I received a telephone call last week from my mother in Singapore. She received a copy of the Asia Down Under report on iBall, and she had seen some of the front-page news items which made her concerned.

“Don’t you get into any controversy, don’t forget you are not in your own country, so don’t meddle with other people’s affairs” she warned, reminding me of the time I got into trouble with a Singapore MP on a story I did at the start of my journalism career in Singapore. It is sad - but what she said actually reflects how many migrants feel.

Meanwhile, it has been brought to my attention that the National Front has been rallying its membership to flame the page on The Big Idea that hosts a copy of an essay I wrote. It confirmed what you might expect - that there are only five people in the National Front. My favourite comment:

Give prize money to some random asian immagrant when a hard working white man gets nothing! Why come to NZ and write an essay... Write one in your own country and get their prizemoney! !!!!, well...

Aw hell, it's just too easy.