黎 宇 撰文摄影
AN EXEMPLARY LIFE OF A PATRIOTIC FELLOW COUNTRYMAN
Mr Bon Chew Young (also known as Chum Young), our Association’s past Chairman and now “Life Chairman” was born in 1922 in the small village of Huang Bang Ling (黄榜岭) Ren He Town, Baiyun, Guangzhou City.
Most of the families in the village were poor peasants with small land holdings. At this time it was very hard to provide for the family so many would send a family member (usually the father) overseas to work and send money back. Bon Chew’s family was one of them. His father went away to the “Gold Hill”, New Zealand, when Bon Chew was a few months old. His mother passed away when he was 10 years old while his father was away.
Being homeless was devastating but this experience gave him a determination to work hard and to strive to better himself and to be useful. It also stirred within him a sympathetic feeling towards less fortunate people.
Bon Chew arrived in New Zealand in September 1936 (after being separated from his sister in Hong Kong) as a student on a Temporary Permit. In New Zealand he encountered a new environment and this presented a new challenge to him. He took stock of himself and found there were so many things that he had to learn in order to adapt himself to the new society!
He was confronted with two cultures which were totally different. He decided to take the best from the two cultures and also to work hard and diligently to improve himself.
He went to school in Westport and at the same time helped his father in the laundry business. His day started in the laundry at 5am to 8:45am and then he went to school until 3pm. On returning home he continued in the laundry until the work was finished and only then could he do his homework.
Bon Chew was bullied at school by two brothers. Each day after school the two boys who were much bigger than him would wait for him around a corner. They took his school bag and threw the books on the ground. While he was picking up the books they would kick him. One Sunday afternoon Bon Chew went fishing at the Westport wharf and came across the two brothers. When they saw him they took all his fishing gear and threw it into the Buller River. To overcome the bullying at school, Bon Chew took up boxing by joining the school boxing club. He won all his bouts and became the school champion and later the West Coast Champion. After that no one at school ever wanted to bully him again. In fact from then on he made many friends including the two brothers.
During his High School days he was very interested in radio. He used up all his pocket money to buy radio books and parts to build small radio sets. Next-door to his father’s laundry there was a radio shop and whenever he had spare time he would go to the radio shop and watch the technicians at work. He often said that he was interested in learning radio and the manager promised to employ him as an apprentice as soon as he finished High School.
To Bon Chew’s disappointment this didn’t happen. Soon after he left to go to Wellington, and the manager offered the job to a white boy who was one of his school mates.
In 1943 Bon Chew went to Wellington looking for suitable employment. At that time there were many soldiers returning from the war and they were given priority for any work available so getting a good job wasn’t easy. He visited every radio shop and radio factory in Wellington but there were no vacancies. At last he visited Chas Begg & Co, a big retail firm with outlets throughout New Zealand and a radio factory in Auckland. The manager straight away said, “We have no vacancy here!” Bon Chew went to see the General Manager, who was a kind man and invited him to his office. He gave Bon Chew a test on radio and electrical theory. He was impressed with the results and gave Bon Chew the job.
The radio course was for four years but Bon Chew completed it in three years and became the 1st Chinese person in New Zealand to be a Registered Radio & Electrical technician.
In 1947 Bon Chew married Miss Annie Kwoin who was born in Hong Kong in 1921. In 1947 she became the 1st Chinese Registered Nurse in New Zealand.
He started a Radio and Electrical business (Chum Young Radio Services) in Westport from 1947-1959. In 1959 he moved to Auckland and started Young’s TV & Appliances Ltd, in Onehunga. It operated from 1959-1983. Altogether he was in the radio & electrical trade for 40 years.
Throughout this time he never forgot his sister in China (Chee Ling) and would often write and send her money to help her and her family.
In 1972 Bon Chew and his wife Annie went to China for a holiday. While they were in Guangzhou they joined a City tour which included a visit to the Guangzhou Deaf & Dumb School. At the school there were 300 children who were born deaf. The teacher told them that the deaf children were treated with acupuncture for six months and recovered from deafness. They stayed there for further two and half years to learn to talk. The doctor demonstrated the use of needles on the children. The children gave a singing and dance recital. This impressed Bon Chew greatly and he decided that he must learn acupuncture.
After completing a course of acupuncture which was done part time, Bon Chew opened his Acupuncture clinic. He practised this from1979-1998 (19 years) in Mangere Bridge and even today some of his patients still ring and are disappointed to hear that he has retired.
Travelling around the globe was one of Bon Chews interests and wherever he went he would buy a special plate to remember the places he had been to. At his home there are many interesting plates displayed on the wall of his ballroom.
Bon Chew has been living in New Zealand for 72 years. 18 of those years were spent in a small town (Westport) in the South Island where the population was predominately European. In order to succeed he had to learn to adapt to a new way of life and accept many prejudices based on his ethnicity, colour of skin and the way that he spoke.
Being a patriotic Chinese, Bon Chew has retained much of his Chinese culture and tried to improve his Chinese by reading and learning Putonghua. His wife Annie also reads Chinese well (and often) and is skilled in the art of Chinese Calligraphy.
Bon Chew and Annie are very keen on ballroom dancing and have been dancing for over 30 years. Part of their daily exercise regime also includes their practising Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong. In 1993 Bon Chew added a Chinese pagoda to his garden, making it into a Chinese Courtyard with a Chinese-style wall surrounding the entire front of the front garden of the corner section. The pagoda is the only one of its kind in the Auckland area!
Bon Chew’s 80th birthday celebration was held at the Sky City Convention Centre, Auckland. Although it was held in a European restaurant with Kiwi food, Bon Chew and his wife wore traditional Chinese outfits from Shanghai. The VIPs at the function included the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China. At the back of the stage hung the old Chinese birthday sign in Chinese characters “福如东海寿比南山” (rich blessing and long life). This piece of art work was specially made by Annie for the occasion.
Bon Chew has been active in community voluntary work from an early age. In 1943, while living in Wellington, he and his friends formed the first Chinese Youth Club. While living in Westport he was involved with Presbyterian Church where he was elected and ordained as an Elder in 1949. He was the first Chinese Elder ordained in a European congregation in New Zealand. He served for 10 years from 1960-1970 as an Elder with the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Auckland. He served for 4 years as a Birthright Councillor in the Mangere area. He also served for 3 years as a school committee member of the Mangere Bridge School.
He was elected as Chairman of the (then) New Zealand Guangzhou Suburbs Chinese Association (which later changed its name to the New Zealand Guangzhou Chinese Assn Inc.) from 1996-2006. At present he is the Association Life Chairman.
During a visit to his village in 1972 Bon Chew noticed that the people had suffered a great deal because of the Cultural Revolution. He asked them how he could best help them at that time. The village leaders had a meeting and informed him that they would like to have a motorised cultivator so that it could work the fields better and also transport farm produce to the cities. They were so happy with the cultivator provided to them and named it “Love the Village”（爱乡号）.In 1988 Bon Chew and his wife helped in the building of the new village school by paying for two class rooms.
In 1991 they donated money to build a new village gate. Also they built three homes for needy relatives.
Bon Chew was one of the founding members of the New Zealand Peaceful Reunification Society （新西兰中国和平统一促进会）and he has spoken on occasions against Chen Shui-Bian’s separatist policies on Taiwan.
He believes passionately in the need for China to remain one unified country, powerful enough to stand on its own principles rather than dividing into smaller countries which are easily manipulated by other countries for their own ends.
In recognition of Bon Chew’s contributions to the New Zealand Guangzhou Association he was appointed as an “honorary member” and “advisor” to number of local bodies in the Guangzhou area.
Although Bon Chew is 86 years old and retired from public offices, he is still physically active and enjoys good health and is well able to drive his car to Wellington and back!
We wish him and his wife many, many more happy years ahead.