First NZ ministerial visit in four years sees unveiling of new Rewi Alley statue
New Zealand foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta helped unveil a new statue of iconic fellow Kiwi Rewi Alley in Beijing on Friday.
In the first visit to China of a New Zealand minister in four years, Mahuta made an appearance at the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), where Alley lived for the final three decades of his life.
Alley (1897-1987), widely viewed as symbolic of the China-New Zealand friendship, first arrived on the Chinese mainland in 1927 when he stepped off a ship at Shanghai's Dock 16. He went on to live in China for the remaining 60 years of his life, before passing away in Beijing in 1987.
In those six decades, Alley worked hard to build relations between the two countries, including writing 60 books, promoting peace internationally, adopting several children and launching a school that helped disadvantaged youth, among other accomplishments.
Alley's work has been highly praised by Chinese leaders throughout the years, including Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Madam Soong Ching Ling. To this day, whenever Chinese leaders meet with their New Zealand counterparts, Alley will inevitably be discussed.
Minister Mahuta thanked the CPAFFC for inviting her to take part in such a symbolic event.
"In coming here and visiting the place where Rewi stayed, it's a demonstration of how friendship can lead to diplomatic relations," Mahuta said. "During the period of time he stayed in China, he dedicated his life to supporting the things that we would hope friends would do: making sure that young people had opportunities through learning about the land and cultivation and education, skills training.
"He had a deep passion for the people here, and that is very evident," she added.
CPAFFC President Lin Songtian, who jointly unveiled the new statue with Mahuta, added: "Mr Alley is an old friend and fellow comrade of the Chinese people. He was not only a pioneer and witness of China-New Zealand friendship, but also a constructor and contributor to China's development during the past century."
The statue of Alley is one of 22 on the grounds of the friendship association, celebrating foreigners who helped China "through thick and thin, making invaluable contributions to the cause of China's revolution, construction, reform and development."
The statues were completed in August 2022, and designed by the Academy of Fine Arts of Tsinghua University.