Former refugees fleeing from the Japanese invasion of China and their descendants will gather in Auckland this month to mark the 75th anniversary of their first arrival in New Zealand.
The 244 women and their 239 children who arrived in 1939 and 1940 had enabled the Chinese in New Zealand to become a community of families, said chair of the New Zealand Chinese Association ( Auckland) Richard Leung.
Before their arrival, the Chinese community was very small and mainly men as a poll tax made it prohibitive for men to have their wives join them, Leung said in a statement.
But in 1938, with Japanese forces moving into the Pearl River Delta region, home to the Chinese in New Zealand, the New Zealand Chinese Association and the Chinese Consulate appealed to the New Zealand government to allow Chinese men to bring their families.
In February 1939, the government agreed to allow the wives and children to join their menfolk in New Zealand, on a temporary permit for two years, and the men also had to pay a hefty bond and maintenance fees.
However, as the situation in China worsened and World War II was in full swing, repatriation after two years was impossible, so the consulate and the association urged the government to allow the families to stay.
In 1947, the refugee wives and children and other Chinese 1, 408 who had been in New Zealand for five years or more were all granted permanent residency.
The arrival of the refugee families was a watershed in Chinese New Zealand history, said Leung.
With a stable family structure, Chinese businesses thrived and expanded and the younger generation took advantage of new education and career opportunities.
"We want to acknowledge New Zealand's humanitarian act of accepting women and children fleeing a war-torn China and we want the generations who have been born here since to remember their roots as New Zealand Chinese," said Leung.
But, he added, New Zealand had also benefited with high- achieving, well-respected and valued members of its society.
The theme of the Oct. 12 event was "To Grow Roots Where They Land" to highlight the long and substantial history and contribution the New Zealand Chinese community had made to the country, and members would raise money for a charity helping refuge women.