20 Apr 2015

China 'concerned' at spying claim

7:46 am on 20 April 2015

Claims that New Zealand and United States spy agencies plotted to spy on the Chinese consulate in Auckland are making news in China.

China's flag.

Photo: AFP

State-run Xinhua news agency has run a report on its website about the spying claims, both in English and Chinese.

A document leaked by the fugitive former US National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden highlights a data link between the Chinese Consulate-General and the Chinese Visa Office, both in Auckland.

It goes on to say the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will provide the US agency with additional technical data about that link.

Xinhua cited a statement from Chinese Embassy in New Zealand saying China was concerned about the report and attached great importance to the cyber security issue.

Journalist Nicky Hager says the documents reveal the Government was plotting to spy on the consulate.

But former New Zealand ambassador to China Tony Browne said it had not yet been established whether information from the consulate's office was actually hacked.

Mr Browne said the allegations would soon be forgotten.

"There were similar allegations about Australian intelligence activity quite recently, there were some anticipated statements made, and from then they simply moved past it, moved ahead. And that's exactly what I'd expect to happen here."

Victoria University international relations professor Xiaoming Huang said diplomats would expect such spying.

"In the US, in other countries, this seems to always be part of the relations, so I don't see that this will be particularly surprising to the Chinese - but maybe a little surprised that it happened in New Zealand."

The Chinese government was unlikely to react belligerently to the claims, he said

However the president of the New Zealand China Friendship Society, Dave Bromwich, said the issue could be damaging.

"If the allegations are true, to be frank, I'm quite shocked and disappointed. I think the relationship between New Zealand and China I felt was progressing very very nicely, becoming quite mature and this is quite a setback."

Mr Bromwich said the claims could taint New Zealand's image in China as an independent-minded country.

"This will show that we are just the same as the big boys. If we are shown to be taking sides in these matters then it will affect our relationship, not only globally but also within China it will have an impact on the way we are perceived, perhaps even the way our products are received."

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said he was surprised.

"Given the relationship that we're trying to forge with them you'd think we'd be somewhat more circumspect about then launching our spy agencies on them"

Prime Minister John Key said other countries do not talk about alleged spying activities and he would not comment either.

Mr Key told Morning Report he would not confirm nor deny anything, but said Mr Hager and others had made spying claims before which have been shown to be wrong.

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