China Premier Li Keqiang accompanied by New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English attended a gala luncheon in Auckland on March 28, 2017.
Pat Alley, Rewi Alley’s nephew takes up the story:
“Before the lunch, I had the privilege of briefing both leaders on a display of 14 photographs from the NZCFS photo exhibition Rewi Alley in China. From the outset Premier Li was very engaged, particularly when, early in our photographic journey, he saw a photograph of Rewi in 1935 with a group of students in Anhui province.
““I grew up there”, was all he needed to say to emphasise his interest in Rewi’s life. Courtesy of an excellent interpreter, Premier Li nodded and smiled his way around the display and made a number of comments in excellent English. It transpired that he knew Rewi reasonably well and the photographs confirmed many facts that he already knew.
“At the conclusion he smiled at me and said “I’m pleased to shake the hand of someone whose hand has touched Rewi”. He added that Rewi was still very much in the frame of Chinese thinking as an example of international cooperation at the most fundamental level of human friendship.
“My final comment to Premier Li was that, Rewi often said,” that despite his achievements, he was just an ordinary New Zealander”.
“To this Premier Li volunteered that in some ways his own life paralleled that of Rewi in that he also came from a relatively ordinary background. The Premier did not have to add that his own recognition as a highly regarded world leader was real and pervasive. If there was doubt, one only had to listen to his speech at the following gala luncheon.
“For me personally it was a privilege to meet someone of Premier Li’s stature and to be assured that Rewi’s message of friendship and international cooperation and understanding was in safe hands.”
Mr. Li Feng, journalist of People’s Daily, also reports that Li Keqiang shook hands with Patrick Alley, saying affectionately: “I met with Rewi Alley in his later years. Although he was old, he still threw himself actively into the social activities for promoting friendship between China and New Zealand. He was the respected old and good friend of the Chinese people, and made great contributions to assisting China in the war against Japanese aggression, and to economic and community development. Particularly during the war against Fascism, he worked and fought together with the Chinese people. Chinese people brand this history on their mind. I hope our two countries continue to inherit and carry forward Rewi Alley’s spirit and constantly enhance the friendly relationship between China and New Zealand.”
Rebecca Needham, who co-ordinated the Gala Luncheon for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that viewing the NZCFS photographs had been one of the highlights of the event for Premier Li and his delegation. “Your photographs made an important contribution to what was a very relaxed and friendly occasion for the leaders of both countries”.
The complete ‘Rewi Alley in China‘ exhibition, which opens in University College of Learning (UCol) Whanganui, April XX until May YY (for location, see below), comprises 70 images covering many aspects of Rewi Alley’s life in China, is part of the celebrations of 3 milestones in 2017:
- The anniversary of 120 years since his birth,
- His first landing in Shanghai 90 years ago, and
- His passing 30 years ago.
Rewi inspired the founding of the NZCFS (New Zealand China Friendship Society) in 1952.
The exhibition was co-hosted by NZCFS and the China Cultural Centre in NZ, with NZCFS providing the photos from our collection. These are curated by Christchurch branch. George Andrews, NZCFS Vice-President North Island, briefed several Chinese Government ministers. Luke Qin, NZCFS Vice-President (Central) and President of NZCFS Wellington Branch also attended.
Reporting of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to the exhibition in all Chinese media has been very positive. For example [Note a ‘health warning’, as this is a ‘machine translation]: http://www.top-news.top/news-12803588.html
To see all the photos of the ‘Rewi Alley in China’ exhibition, click HERE
Click HERE, for the location of UCol, Whanganui, where the next ‘Rewi Alley in China‘ exhibition is to take place. Go to Level 3, UCoL “A Block”. UCol have very kindly provided NZCFS with the venue in a lovely heritage building on Taupo Quay, right opposite the Tourist Information Centre, Whanganui.