Billboard vandalism disheartens ethnic candidates

Kaipatiki Local Board candidate Joe Zhou has had eight billboards vandalised (RNZ Photo by Lucy Xia)

Lucy Xia
Auckland, September 14, 2022

A spate of racist attacks on election campaign billboards of Asian candidates in Auckland last week has left some in the community disturbed and hurt.

First-time candidate Joe Zhou, who is running for Kaipatiki Local Board, had at least eight of his election billboards vandalised with racist slurs last week.

Mr Zhou said he felt that racism was not reflective of the wider society but was worried about the negative feelings that it may trigger among the Kiwi Chinese community.

He is among the six Asian candidates whose billboards were targeted – some had their faces cut out, others had their faces painted over.

Wider attack felt

North Shore resident Sally Chen said that she was disturbed by the racist word on one billboard.

“I was really angry and I was sick because I was sending my children to school. I do not know how to explain it to them. They were extremely quiet at that time,” she said.

Ms Chen said that she was “heartbroken” when her son came home and told her that he was name-called by another student at school, by the same word seen on the billboard.

“It felt that it was a wider attack on the community. If a billboard could become a racist target, it could happen to me, and every Asian in the community. I suddenly feel unsafe,” she said.

Another North Shore Chinese Kiwi, who only wanted to be known as Vicky, said that racism had been visibly worse over the past two years of the pandemic.

A person deliberately coughed on her and made racist remarks when she was visiting Rotorua.

She appreciated candidates who could represent her community in the local body elections and was angry to see the billboards wrecked.

Howick Ward Councillor Paul Young, who is running again for the seat this year, said that his face had been cut out or painted over on more than 20 billboards.

This is his eighth local body election and not the first time that his billboards have been defaced. “The damage this time has been the worst,” he said.

He was more concerned that the racist acts could discourage newer ethnic candidates.

“It is very bad for young East Asian or ethnic candidates who want to stand up to make a contribution to our community and Tāmaki Makaurau. Such racist attacks are not acceptable,” he said.

Education Imperative

He told Morning Report that education was the best way to combat the issue but he also urged anyone who witnessed vandalism of campaign billboards to inform the Police.

He said that vandalism could prevent new candidates from standing if they feared that vandals or such groups can do whatever they want.

“This is not the first time and the situation is getting worse in the area. New Zealand is my home and it is unacceptable that ethnic candidates are being targeted,” he said.

Vinson Yu, who is contesting for the first time this year,  is disheartened and angry after seeing his face cut out of his campaign boards in Bucklands Beach.

He is running for a seat on the Howick Local Board, where the Asian population accounts for 46%. He said that he is keen to represent his community.

Unacceptable behaviour

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that while there has always been a degree of mindless vandalism around local body election time, the overwhelming targeting of Asian candidates this year was racist and unacceptable.

More representation was needed in Auckland’s local government, where more than a quarter of the population is Asian, he said.

“The latest incidents undermined those goals,” Mr Goff said.

He had zero tolerance for this behaviour and felt for the candidates who were targeted.

Mr Goff hoped that the broader community would report these acts and help police track down offenders.

Many incidents have been reported to the Police.

Official information from the Police shows that 8246 hate-motivated offences have been recorded over the past three years.

Lucy Xia is a Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and pictures have been published under a special agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

Kaipatiki Local Board candidate Joe Zhou has had eight billboards vandalised (RNZ Photo by Lucy Xia)

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