Pansy Wong MP and her husband, Sammy Wong spotted Yiyi’s potential as a politician and convinced her that she should put her name forward as a candidate for last year’s Christchurch local body elections. Yiyi accepted the challenge, for she viewed the election being not only for herself but also for all of the Chinese people in Christchurch. It was an important step. The whole Chinese community was involved. We set up Yiyi Ku Campaign Committee and had more than one hundred volunteers helping us deliver pamphlets, put up signs and posters, door-knock in the Waimairi area, and organize fundraising activities and campaign speeches. I did the design work for all of the publicity materials, Dad was Yiyi’s campaign sponsor, David helped to deliver pamphlets, and in the three months prior to election Mom was forever on the phone contacting people.
Jobs are very hard to find these days. For a Chinese immigrant to find a job in a small city such as Christchurch is even more difficult. Some people thought Yiyi was out of her mind in thinking that she had a chance of being elected. They were the more conservative type of people and could not see how Yiyi could be the first Chinese local body representative in Christchurch. Yiyi however did not see herself representing only the Chinese people; she believed that her youthfulness and music background could bring new ideas and fresh approaches to local issues that affect everyone. She worked very hard door-knocking and introducing herself and her ideas to the residents. We watched her emotions closely everyday. Sometimes when she came back she looked sad and defeated, and we knew immediately that she had met some unfriendly people, but a lot of times she came back excited and she would tell us who she had met and how nice they were to her. I helped to door-knock too on several occasions. The majority of people were open-minded and welcomed new faces, but it still took a lot of courage to walk up to someone’s front door and ask them to give you a minute of their time.
The election results were announced on the radio on October 11, 1998, before being published on ‘The Press’ the next day; everybody from the campaign committee gathered together and was anxious to find out if Yiyi had been elected or not. The room was packed with people yet the only sound we heard was the voice of the reporter coming from the speakers of the small portable radio; everybody was waiting to hear the good results.
It was so tear-breaking when we heard that Yiyi’s council seat was unsuccessful, even though she was elected onto the Fendalton/Waimairi community board. Some people from the committee cried instantly. Yiyi was really brave that she didn’t cry, or show any sign of sadness, instead she cheered up, and went around the tables thanking all the people who had helped during the campaign period.
It wasn’t until the next day when we read ‘The Press’ that we realized that Yiyi had lost the council seat to the sister of the former mayor by only 122 votes. She did however get on the community board with 5011 votes, being the second highest polling candidate. We were very proud of her. She had made history not only for herself but also for the new immigrants of New Zealand.
Useful website – NZ Directory