7 Aug 2019

NZ government caution to China over Hong Kong signals relationship 'adjustment' - Anne Marie Brady

6:07 pm on 7 August 2019

Government officials have raised concerns about freedom of expression with the Chinese embassy, after supporters of the Hong Kong protests in Auckland faced silencing tactics.

Anne-Marie Brady

Professor Anne Marie Brady Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Protests continue to disrupt Hong Kong after widespread anger over the extradition to China bill.

That frustration has also spread to New Zealand.

The Chinese Consulate in Auckland released a statement last week saying some Western anti-China politicians and individuals had made irresponsible remarks about the situation in Hong Kong.

It strongly condemned any activity that demonised China and Hong Kong officials.

Learn more:

  • Hong Kong extradition bill protesters in NZ get death threats
  • Hundreds of Hong Kong flights canned as protests grip city
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday that government officials had raised concerns with China's embassy.

    "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made its expectations with the Chinese representation in New Zealand that we will uphold and maintain our freedom of expression," Ms Ardern said.

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    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

    Canterbury professor Anne Marie Brady, an expert on the influence of the Chinese communist party who has repeatedly complained of harrassment at her home and work, told Morning Report the move was significant.

    "It's very significant ... pretty unusual and the last time I rememeber this happening to do with China was in fact in 1989 when New Zealand publicly raised its concerns with the Chinese ambassador."

    The move comes after hundreds of people turned out at the Auckland University quad for a rally supporting the Hong Kong protests yesterday, just a week after an altercation between opposing sides sparked a police investigation at the university.

    One of the organisers, Serena Lee, said people had tried to silence them and even though her group was given permission by Auckland University to post flyers about the extradition bill, others had covered those with their own messages.

    "Some words can be pretty offensive to try to cover the information that we posted up and so instead of having a fair discussion - two sided - they're trying to cover what we're posting up," she said.

    Hundreds of people turned out at the Auckland University quad for a rally on 6 August about the controversial law.

    Hundreds of people turned out at the Auckland University quad for a rally on 6 August about the controversial law. Photo: RNZ / Jogai Bhatt

    One man said he had been the target of abuse and threats.

    "Instagram, I get messages from people telling me I should go die, my family should got die, like we're 'dogs', we're 'not humans' - so pretty much abuse all around."

    Prof Brady said the government's public statements signalled an "adjustment" in the relationship between the two countries.

    "It's a big deal, and I think it indicates an adjustment in New Zealand's relationship with China that's under way. Another indication of that was yesterday the Prime Minister and also Shane Jones talked about diversifying exports from the China market.

    "Our diplomats for a long time have been hedging against the risk of being overdependent on the China market but it was never publicly articularted so again yesterday those public comments about diversifying from the China market is significant.

    "In fact, another comment this week on our foreign policy has been from Winston Peters ... emphasising New Zealand's values."

    New Zealand did not stand alone in challenging China, Prof Brady said.

    "The situation in Hong Kong, the pressure is not on New Zealand the pressure is on China," she said.

    "If China was to send in either the PLA or the People's Armed Police to try and quell the situation in Hong Kong it would have serious international implications for the Chinese government, as they well know."

    She said New Zealand was strong when working with other countries towards upholding a global rules-based order, and previous examples showed New Zealand could stand up to China on that.

    "New Zealand's action to speak up on the extreme human rights abuses occuring against Uighur in China was part of a collective action, 23 countries signed hat letter and we don't speak alone on this issue, we are speaking up for the values that we hold very dearly," she said.

    "We did it in unison with likeminded states, and that's the way to go is to be upholding the rules-based order, to be upholding international law on human rights and to do so collectively because together working with other states we are strong."

    Hong Kong mass protests - Video explainer:

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