The First Chinese Refugees
The first arrived in New Zealand between 1938 to 1941. This was the period where many women and children arrived to join their men folk here. Life was difficult for the women, who had to learn another language, and live a life far different from home.
Shipping Lists show many families arriving in both the port of Wellington and Auckland.
The Chinese who came were mainly from the Canton area - and were Cantonese speakers. Many were from Jung Seng. The government allowed the families to come here, with the intention of them returning to China in 2 years. And children born here were also to return to China.
A photo of a group of women and children was in the New Zealand Herald on the 11 October 1939. The people in the photo were the Chan family from the Hargee Village, Jung Seng, China.They joined their men folk who were in Auckland. This group came with the assistance of profesional men associated with Wah Jang in Queen Street, Auckland. Andrew Chong was one of the men who approached the government for permission.
The accompanying article in the Herald 11 October 1939:
"Large Party's Arrival. The second group of Chinese Refugees brought to Auckland by relatives in New Zealand, has arrived here. The party, comprising 30 Chinese, is one of the largest to have land at Auckland in recent years and is composed of 10 families. Twenty of the group are women, 13 of whom are married.
On arrival the families were greeted by the secretary of the Auckland Chinese Association, Mr Andrew Chong, who has been a leading figure in the move to allow his fellow-countrymen to bring their wives and young children from war zones in China into New Zealand. All the refugees were from the Canton area in South China. The members of the party appeared cheerful and showed no signs of the privation which attended their departure from China shortly before the fall of Canton.
The refugees have been admitted for two years, subject to the signing of a 500 pound bond and the payment of a deposit of 200 pound, to be forfeited if conditions laid down are broken."
Chan Kum Show was one of the men folk who travelled back to China to assist the women and children to make the voyage to New Zealand, via Sydney. Interviews with members of the Chan family showed that the families left the Hargee Village, and walked the railway line route to Hong Kong. They weren't the only ones to follow that route, travelling at night and hiding during the days. The familes travelled with young children and they were given shelter and food from villages that they passed on the way to Hong Kong.Guides had been employed from Kwong Yee Loong in Hong Kong.