11 Sep 2019

Simon Bridges reveals what he said when asked about Communist Party of China

10:19 am on 11 September 2019

A recent trip to China has raised questions over who the Opposition leader Simon Bridges met with and why.

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Simon Bridges Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

Among those he met on his five-day visit was Guo Shengkun.

Anne-Marie Brady, a Canterbury University professor and expert on Chinese politics, has described Guo Shengkun as the leader of the Chinese secret police.

Mr Bridges disagreed with that description saying who he met with was effectively a Chinese minister. He also denied reports that he was buttering up China's Communist Party.

He told Morning Report China had a very different system than New Zealand.

"It is a system - if we are blunt about it - [where] the Communist Party is inextricably entwined with the administration of China and vice versa," he said.

"I was asked about the Communist Party; my simple point was that party which we may or may not have our views on has been in place and running China for 70 years [and] has had the most unprecedented economic transformation in world history.

"I appreciate and understand deeply the differences we have on rule of law, on democracy, on human rights and I made those points in the meetings I was in."

He said he was quite clear in every meeting that New Zealand had an independent foreign policy and "sometimes our close friends in America won't like that and sometimes China will be unhappy".

"We trade with it [China] more than any other country and it's right that I go there as someone who is wanting to be the next Prime Minister of New Zealand," he said yesterday.

In relation to the current situation in Hong Kong, he said he pointed out in the meetings that the "rule of law is important, that a peaceful protest is important and I think we want to see a peaceful resolution to those issues."

On the other hand, he said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Christchurch Call initiative, which brings together governments and big tech companies to combat online terrorism and extremism, was a waste of time.

The National Party leader said everyday New Zealanders didn't care about the Christchurch Call.

"The Christchurch attacks are probably the most heinous and awful thing New Zealand has ever seen," he said.

But the Christchurch Call "hasn't achieved anything".

He said it was just a "feel good" initiative and would end up without any effect.

Instead, resources should be put towards problems facing New Zealand like the measles epidemic, homelessness, he said.

New Zealanders could be worried about multiple issues at the same time, he agreed, but "it is a question of focus and priority ... and I think the prime minister has got those wrong".

Muslim community advocate Guled Mire said such comments assumed people who were worried about their safety were not everyday New Zealanders.

"It's the same sort of rhetoric used to basically marginalise us people from minority backgrounds again and again. We've always felt as though we're not accepted as New Zealanders and comments like that reaffirm it."