Feature: Dedication ceremony honours unique Chinese-Maori bond

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand, April 10 (Xinhua) — A dedication ceremony was held on Saturday in Far North, New Zealand, for SS Ventnor Memorial to commemorate the unique bond between Chinese and Maori since the steamer sank.

The SS Ventnor was a British ship, chartered in 1902 by the Cheong Sing Tong, a charity organization led by Dunedin businessman Choie Sew Hoy, to carry the remains of 499 Chinese gold miners back to their homeland to be buried by their families according to Chinese custom.

The ship sank near Hokianga Heads in Far North, New Zealand on Oct. 27, 1902, leading to the death of 13 crews as well as the loss of the remains of the near 500 bodies.

Names of the 499 Chinese gold miners were read out in the ceremony on Saturday for the first time in more than 100 years since the ship sank.

In 2007, descendants of the early Chinese settlers discovered that after the SS Ventnor sank, remains had drifted ashore and were gathered and cared for by the local Hokianga Maori tribes.

Since then, formal relations started between New Zealand Chinese community and the local Maori tribes and the making of the memorial was brought up.

The wreck of the boat was discovered in 2014 and is now a National Heritage Site in New Zealand.

The SS Ventnor Memorial, after years’ of dedicated work of New Zealand Chinese community lead by the New Zealand Chinese Association with government funding support, was established at the Hokianga Harbour in December 2020.

At the ceremony, New Zealand Chinese Association president Richard Leung recalled the history backgrounds around the SS Ventnor Memorial and said that he was proud to witness the memorial being built and having the Chinese and Maori communities together for the ceremony.

“The Memorial may be about the past, but we built it for the future. This is for all New Zealanders. The care, the respect and the guardianship shown are the values that we share. No matter who you are, Chinese or Maori, Pakeha or Pacific, we share these values,” said Leung.

New Zealand Minister for Maori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis, talked about the spiritual path when a Maori person passes away.

“Your ancestors were joining here with our ancestors’ spiritual route. They lie here with us and they are at home,” said Davis.

New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon delivered his speech in Maori at the ceremony. He talked about the tradition of the Chinese Qingming Festival in commemorating the ancestors, saying he was grateful for the joint efforts in the making of the SS Ventnor Memorial.

The dedication ceremony on Saturday was also attended by representatives from the New Zealand Chinese Community, many of them descendants from the early Chinese settlers, local Maori tribes and New Zealand government ministers and representatives. Enditem

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