Sixty per cent of Chinese living in New Zealand feel unsafe, according to an online survey released on Friday.
The survey result runs counter to the common perception that New Zealand is one of the safest places in the world, although the researcher who conducted the poll pointed out the results only reflected people’s perceptions, not the true crime situation in the nation.
But it attracted the attention of Xinhua, which reported on the survey, and of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who reportedly sent a letter to the Chinese community promising more resources for policing.
Andrew Zhu, a political pollster at the University of Auckland, conducted the survey this week on WeChat, the popular Chinese instant-messaging service, which attracted nearly 12,000 responses from Chinese living in New Zealand as well as the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Some 62 per cent of the respondents were dissatisfied with public safety in the small Pacific nation, and 90 per cent were not satisfied with penalties for crime or policing.
Burglary and robbery were the crimes that engendered the most fear among respondents. Many crimes also went unreported due to language or cultural barriers, especially among older Chinese who emigrated to join their families, the survey found.
Sindy Xian, who emigrated to the country five years ago, said she started to be concerned for her safety after two mainland students were robbed and assaulted in Auckland in March.
“Not long ago, a friends’ sports goods store was burgled. Much of his furniture was also smashed,” she said.
Jimmy Zheng, who manages a Chinese restaurant in Auckland, said the public safety was “generally” good and he and his acquaintances have not been victims of crime.
“But my observation is that Chinese people are more likely to be targets of criminals because they like to carry cash, they often go out at night and they are not as physically strong as some Westerners,” he said.
New Zealand’s Chinese population numbers about 200,000, most of whom live in Auckland, the largest city. The crime rate of the nation stood at 777 crimes per 100,000 people in 2014.
In a recent international survey of 162 countries, New Zealand ranked the fourth safest.
Zhu said high expectations of New Zealand as “an ultra-safe oasis” could inflate perceptions of threats when newcomers inevitably heard reports of crime in the media or on social media, or experienced it themselves.
Zhu said he conducted the survey following a report about an assault on a Chinese restaurant owner, who said he was hit with a bottle.
Zhang Weijun, who emigrated to New Zealand two decades ago, said those who felt the most insecure were probably those who had not yet integrated into local society.
“They don’t understand the police and judicial system of New Zealand and they don’t understand the culture here,” he said. “I found many Chinese students show off their wealth. They make a lot of noise in restaurants and order excessive food.
“They complain about the inefficiency of police officers, but I think the police have their own procedures and regulations and they are faster than [officers] in Greece and Brazil.
“To me, New Zealand is still the safest country in the world.”