Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Apparently, I will not get fired for this.

In my initial contract discussions with Sarah Stuart, then of the SST, now of the Herald on Sunday, we discussed the meaning of 'no bagging the SST on my blog'. She said there was a difference between 'bagging' and 'respectfully disagreeing', which would be fine of course.

Right then - herewith, some respectful disagreement with the content and framing of the Sunday Star-Times article on the 'foreign criminal explosion'. Oh look, and Russell weighed in while I was off checking my legal situation.

65% increase? A predictable news-use of statistics. Here's another view: the percentage of 'foreigners' or non-citizens in prisons and on remand has increased by just over two and a half percentage points, from about 5.7% of the earlier, lower prison population, to about 8.3% of the new, higher overall prison population. Almost as if I'm a journalist for a major weekly newspaper, I don't know what the non-citizen population of the country is, and have not managed to find out in the last five minutes of googling. However, I do know that the percentage of people in New Zealand born overseas was 19.5% at the 2001 Census and is sure to have topped 20% by now. The percentage of non-citizens is undoubtedly less, but the point is that from this information we have no way of knowing whether 'non-citizens' (eg permanent residents, students, work permit holders) are being detained disproportionately to their population size.

We know about 'Asians' though. Ironically, this article came hard on the heels of Jessica Phuang - our emblematic Auckland Chinese Cop - noting on Campbell Live on Friday, that 'Asians' made up 30% of the population of Central Auckland, and 6% of its crime figures.

You can play spot the difference between the Sunday Star-Times article and the New Zealand Herald story based on the SST's, taken from NZPA.

While both the original SST story and the edited Herald version suffer from the seemingly illogical position of being about immigrants or non-citizens, but not getting any opinions from immigrants or non-citizens, the Herald managed to cut out the most ...respectfully disagreed-with parts of the SST article: Namely, the contorted attempt to angle it on some kind of Chinese crime explosion. The Star-Times managed to make its story seem rather absurd by giving para 3 prominence to this line, after noting the entire population of sentenced and remand prisoners to be standing at 7500:
"The number of Chinese prisoners almost doubled," (bloody hell!) "...from 35 to 64." (my emphasis). You had to laugh at the accumulative attempts of the next sentence. "This includes three young Chinese men charged with the kidnapping and murder of student Wan Biao."

64 out of 7500 non-citizen detainees. Making Chinese nationals 0.85% of our prison and remand population. This odd focus was compounded by the SST journalist asking Peter Chan, random Old Generation dude who is not even a Chinese Association leader at this time, what he thought about the whole thing. I guess the journalist just couldn't find any actual Chinese immigrants - or anyone who knew anything about Chinese crime (even after Jessica Phuang's star turn).

Interestingly, both articles noted that the British were at the top of the list of 'foreigners' accelerating through the crime figures. But no-one has asked British Community Advocates (sounds silly doesn't it?) why their community is the source of such problems. It seems rather unfair to smear the Brits like this but not actually ask them what they think. Journalists are probably worried they won't be able to communicate through the accent barrier.