OnPoint by Keith Ng


Fisking for Asians

Fisking is its own reward - mostly because it's unlikely that it'll lead to any other sort of reward - but it is quite satisfying to deconstruct a work and rip its still-beating heart out as a trophy.

Oops. Sorry, that's just me being a blood-thirsty Asian.

The cover story of the current issue of North & South, penned by Deborah Coddington, is entitled "Asian Angst: Is it time to send some back?".

Her basic argument is that there is a lot of crime amongst us "Asiatics", which is costing the country and horrifying honest Kiwis, and it's time to "send them back".


First, Coddington seemed to have missed Asian Stereotype 101. The most important stereotype about Asians is that we're very good with numbers, and you should therefore never attempt statistical obfuscation against us - even when it's couched in English words. We can smell the weakness in your stats, Ms Coddington, and it smells like Poisson distribution that's gone off.

Her statistical proof of rising Asian crime is as follows:

[In 2001], although Asians made up 6.6 per cent of the population, they were responsible for just 1.7 per cent of all criminal convictions.

However, according to Statistics New Zealand national apprehension figures from 1996 to 2005, total offences committed by Asiatics (not including Indian) aged 17 to 50 rose 53 percent, from 1791 to 2751. Compare that with offences committed by Pacific Islanders, who make up 6.5 per cent of the population. They certainly committed more offences - 11,292 in the same decade - but their increase was only 2.9 percent."

Okay, so:

1) In 2001, Asian share in crime is much lower than Asians as percentage of total population. (Good?)
2) Between 1996-2005, total Asian crime rose 53% between 1996 and 2005. (Bad?)
3) During the same period, total PI crime rose 2.9% between 1996 and 2005. (Good?)

QED, Asians are far worse than PIs and we should send them home.

Nevermind that she switches from a measure of criminality proportional to population share (i.e. Measurement of ethno-criminality?) to rate of change in number of crimes in two different populations without reference to population size/growth (i.e. Measurement of err... nothing in particular?). Her own figures show:

1) Absolute number of crimes were higher in the PI community. (She explicitly says this, to her credit.)
2) Asians made up a higher percentage of the population than PIs in 2001.

If there are more Asians in the population, but less crime committed by Asians, it stand to reason that criminality proportional to population share (the kind of ethno-criminality that Coddington seems to be trying to prove) is lower among Asians than PIs. Which means bugger-all anyway, but it is the opposite of what she's trying to prove. And the fact that she switches from one measurement to another completely irrelevant one would suggest that it's an act of intellectual dishonesty, rather than statistical incompetence.

So, let's run the numbers. According to Statistics New Zealand's National Apprehension Figures:

In 2001, there were 3182 instances of Asians being apprehended for crimes, which was 1.62% of total apprehensions.

In 2005, there were 3182 instances of Asians being apprehended for crimes, which was a staggering 1.64% of total apprehensions.

Once you get into the third significant figure, you can see the mindboggling increase in Asian crime. You hear that noise? That's that boggling of my mind.

That's not a typo. The number of Asians apprehended for crimes was actually *exactly* the same for 2001 and 2005. Talk about spectacularly inconvenient. I suspect that that's why Coddington moved to 1996 as the base year instead.

[For the purposes of per capita calculations, Indians are included, as the population stats include Indians under Asians, while the police stats have "Asiatic" and "Indian".]

In 1996, there were 3741 instances of Asians (including Indians) being apprehended for crimes, which accounted for 1.9% of all apprehensions. But back then, Asians were 3.8% of the population. By 2005, Asians were represented in 2.6% of apprehensions, but were 9.3% of the population. So, as the proportion of Asians in the country increased threefolds, their representation in crime statistics rose by only a third.

In short, the Asians went from being under-represented in crime stats by a factor of 2 to 1 to being under-represented by a factor of 3.7 to 1. i.e. Very roughly speaking, Asians are about a quarter as likely to be criminals as the average person in New Zealand.

This *decrease* in Asians' ridiculously low crime representation rate is what Coddington describes as a "gathering crime tide".


Coddington implies that Asian business people are widely ripping off customers.


The Commerce Commission issued nine warnings in the past year to "Asian traders", of which six were "related to misleading representations about the country of origin of royal jelly and sheep placenta supplements". One trader was convicted last year.

Nine warnings in a year. One conviction the year before.

Mind: Boggle. Boggle.

(And I'm sure that "disquiet [is growing] in heartland New Zealand" about being misled over the country of origin of their royal jelly and sheep placenta.)


This one isn't Coddington's, but is mindboggling anyway.

Making it even more difficult for police, says [Auckland police] drug squad boss [John] Sowter, is 'that they all look the same to us so you wouldn't know [they're gang members] if you passed them on the street. We've got Asian cleaners and I look at them sometimes and wonder.'"

Yes - if the police can't tell the difference between an Asian gang member and an Asian cleaner, yes, you'd have to wonder why Asian gang crime is a problem for them.


"New Zealand has imported an alien, ruthless and secretive crime culture committed by educated, profit-driven individuals and gangs..."

...then she goes on to conclude the article with the case of Zeshen Zhou, who went nuts and killed his wife. The final sentence of the article "Zhou is a New Zealand resident and will not be deported".

It just seems to be such a non-sequitur response. Man goes psycho and butchers his wife: His residency status should therefore be called into question?


The point is that you can't guarantee that a person who seems to be good is good, or that they will remain good. Yes - there are criminals in this country who are Asians, who use their connections with Asia or with the local Asian community to commit crimes. But the statistics argue extremely strongly against the idea that this is any sort of crime wave, or that the problem is getting worse.

And you can't make citizenship probationary forever on the off-chance that they are bad. Either you accept a person into the country or you don't, and if you do, you've got to treat them like anyone else. And if they commit a crime, treat them like someone who's committed a crime. What's so terribly wrong with that?

And one more thing you can't do: You can't compare a population-related feature of two groups without reference to the population.

Now that's a crime.

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