There are some things I write about here that I really don’t care that much about.
But this isn’t one of them.
Yesterday at the start of Parliament’s sitting day, the prayer was read in Chinese by Labour MP, Raymond Huo. This was apparently in recognition of the PRC-government sponsored Chinese language week.
There are three “official” languages in New Zealand: English, Maori, and sign language. Chinese is not one of those languages, so why is it being used as an official part of parliamentary proceeedings in this country?
There are, of course, migrants from the PRC (and other Chinese-speaking countries/territories), as there are migrants from many other countries. But when they come to New Zealand, and participate (as they should) in our political processes, they should do so speaking one of our languages. As a migrant you might, to some extent hold on to your birth culture, but you made a choice to come to New Zealand, and part of that choice should be to adopt New Zealand ways and laws. We are not some PRC colony.
I noted that Chinese language week is a PRC-government sponsored event. The patron is Her Excellency, the PRC’s ambassador in New Zealand. Among the trustees are Raymond Huo himself, the president of the New Zealand China Friendship Society, well-known for its close associations with the regime, the chair of the Victoria University (PRC-funded) Confucius Institute (and a senior consultant to the PRC government around Confucius Institutes) and the chief executive of the local branch of one of the Chinese banks. (On this occasion, former PRC intelligence offical Jian Yang – who misrepresented his past to get into New Zealand – is only an honorary adviser.) And who do we find among the “sponsors” and “partners”? Listed first in Hanban, the PRC government agency behind that network of Confucius Institutes around the world. In the same top-tier is one of the Chinese banks (recalling that all Chinese corporates are seen, by the Chinese government, as arms of the PRC party/state). Just behind, are the New Zealand government propaganda arms – the China Council (from whom never a sceptical word is heard) and the Asia New Zealand Foundation – the individual Confucius Institutes, the Wellington City Council (wasting my rates again) and various businesses and universities that want to keep on side with Beijing.
This is, overwhelmingly, a PRC promoted and sponsored body/event. Any serious observer would recognise that, and the propaganda win involved in allowing the parliamentary prayer to be said by Huo, in Chinese. No wonder Huo could talk of a record number of people watching Parliament TV from abroad (assuming there is any data to support such a claim). Could one imagine a member being invited to open the day’s session of the PRC legislature with a prayer in English? Silly me. Legislature, in the PRC. Ritual rubber-stamp more like. Prayer? Why, it is an avowedly atheistic regime, uneasy about anything or anyone that claims a higher allegiance than the Party.
Being a fairly open-minded place, where our leaders are largely heedless – and careless – of our heritage, it might have been one thing if Chinese language week had had as joint patrons (evil as her regime is) the PRC Ambassador and the Taiwanese government’s representative in New Zealand. Or if the key figures were not political at all. Or if the ethnic Chinese MP reading the prayer had a track record of standing up, and speaking out, against the evils of the totalitarian regime that brutally rules the land of his birth. Or had originally from another Chinese-speaking country.
But, of course, none of these things held. What do we know of Raymond Huo, senior Labour backbencher (presumably hoping for higher office before too long) who – remarkably (or perhaps not given the carelessness of our MPs) – chairs the Justice select committee in Parliament. A man who has never once that I’m aware of, in his years in Parliament, uttered a single word critical of the PRC regime. A man who openly defends the Chinese conquest of Tibet, and the brutal suppression of the people and their identity. And here is what Anne-Marie Brady wrote about him in her Magic Weapons paper last year.
Even more so than Yang Jian, who until the recent controversy, was not often quoted in the New Zealand non-Chinese language media, the Labour Party’s ethnic Chinese MP, Raymond Huo霍建强 works very publicly with China’s united front organizations in New Zealand and promotes their policies in English and Chinese. Huo was a Member of of Parliament from 2008 to 2014, then returned to Parliament again in 2017 when a list position became vacant. In 2009, at a meeting organized by the Peaceful Reunification of China Association of New Zealand to celebrate Tibetan Serf Liberation Day, Huo said that as a “person from China” (中国人) he would promote China’s Tibet policies to the New Zealand Parliament.
Huo works very closely with the PRC representatives in New Zealand. In 2014, at a meeting to discuss promotion of New Zealand’s Chinese Language Week (led by Huo and Johanna Coughlan) Huo said that “Advisors from Chinese communities will be duly appointed with close consultation with the Chinese diplomats and community leaders.” Huo also has close contacts with the Zhi Gong Party 致公党 (one of the eight minor parties under the control of the United Front Work Department). The Zhi Gong Party is a united front link to liaise with overseas Chinese communities, as demonstrated in a meeting between Zhi Gong Party leaders and Huo to promote the New Zealand OBOR Foundation and Think Tank.
It was Huo who made the decision to translate Labour’s 2017 election campaign slogan “Let’s do it” into a quote from Xi Jinping (撸起袖子加油干, which literally means “roll up your sleeves and work hard”). Huo told journalists at the Labour campaign launch that the Chinese translation “auspiciously equates to a New Year’s message from President Xi Jinping encouraging China to ‘roll its sleeves up’.” However, inauspiciously, in colloquial Chinese, Xi’s phrase can also be read as “roll up your sleeves and f..k hard” and the verb (撸) has connotations of masturbation. Xi’s catchphrase has been widely satirized in Chinese social media. Nonetheless, the phrase is now the politically correct slogan for promoting OBOR, both in China and abroad. The use of Xi’s political catchphrase in the Labour campaign, indicates how tone deaf Huo and those in the Chinese community he works with are to how the phrase would be received in the New Zealand political environment. In 2014, when asked about the issue of Chinese political influence in New Zealand, Huo told RNZ National, “Generally the Chinese community is excited about the prospect of China having more influence in New Zealand” and added, “many Chinese community members told him a powerful China meant a backer, either psychologically or in the real sense.”
During his successful campaign for the Auckland mayoralty, in 2016, former Labour leader and MP, Phil Goff received $366,115 from a charity auction and dinner for the Chinese community. The event was organized by Labour MP Raymond Huo. Tables sold for $1680 each. Because it was a charity auction Goff was not required to state who had given him donations, but one item hit the headlines. A signed copy of the Selected Works of Xi Jinping was sold to a bidder from China for $150,000. A participant at the fundraiser said the reason why so many people attended and had bid strongly for items was because they believed Goff would be the next mayor.
In June 2017, at the Langley Hotel in Auckland, the State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office hosted an update meeting to discuss the integration of the overseas Chinese media with the domestic Chinese media. In attendance was Li Guohong, Vice Director of the Propaganda Department of the State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, and other senior CCP media management officials, representatives of the ethnic Chinese media in New Zealand, representatives of ethnic Chinese community groups, and Labour MP Raymond Huo. Update meetings (通气会) are one of the main ways the CCP relays instructions to the domestic Chinese media, in order to avoid a paper trail. Party directives are accorded a higher status than national law.
There is no sign at all of Huo putting any distance between himself and one of most repressive totalitarian regimes on the planet. If anything, he only seems to want to hug the regime, and Xi Jinping, closer. No wonder former diplomat and now lobbyist Charles Finny told a TVNZ Q&A interviewer last year that he was always very careful what he said in front of Huo.
And since this was a prayer being said, what about the religious dimensions? Parliament’s prayer is an odd sort of beast, made odder by the current Speaker who rewrote the prayer to remove any distinctive Christian aspects, while keeping it distinctively monotheistic (references to Almighty God – and not to localised tree gods or other minor deities). As a Christian, I’d be happy enough (would probably prefer) Parliament dropped the prayer altogether: even if hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, I’d rather MPs just recognised that the dominant “religion” of New Zealand (and every society has one, defined broadly) isn’t theistic at all.
But, for now, Parliament is opened each day with a monotheistic prayer, some vague nodding reference to our heritage, but vague enough that the small numbers of Muslims and Jews in New Zealand can probably nod along.
And what is the status of religion in the People’s Republic of China? The Communist Party, which runs the state, is avowedly atheistic. Religous believers, of whatever stripe, aren’t allowed to join the Party, as a matter of ideological commitment. And both the Party and state are threatened by any sense of higher loyalties, not just theistic ones – witness the extreme measures they’ve taken to suppress Falun Gong. And what of theistic religions? In the case of Islam, consider the extreme repression now in place in Xinjiang province, where some estimates suggest more than a million people may be in concentration and indoctrination “camps” (prisons), the surveillance state is taken to extremes, kids are taken from imprisoned parents, declared orphans, and then retrained to forget the identity, or even the existence, of their parents. No New Zealand public figure – no minister, no MP, and certainly not Raymond Huo (former countrymen of these victims) – has spoken up, or spoken out, against that almost unbelievable persecution. What you don’t speak up about – when you in a position to be heard – is what you tolerate, what you really don’t care much about at all. And yet Raymond Huo has the cheek to accept the offer to utter the prayer to this monotheistic Almighty God.
What of Christians? They’ve had an uneasy relationship with the PRC over recent decades. There are tame churches, in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (Protestant) and a parallel with Catholics. In many respects, they are orthodox, and yet they allow themselves to be placed under the thumb of the party-State (as for example, much of the Lutheran church in Germany did during the Nazi era). But those churches who won’t bend the knee to the party-State are subject to increasing persecution in the Xi Jinping era, and attempts to suborn them and their leaders. One large independent church in Beijing recently closed – went to operating in small groups and by podcasts – after the authorities insisted on the right place surveillance cameras in their buildings. In response to growing repression and threats more than 100 pastors recently signed a declaration ending this way (emphasis added)
Christians are obligated to respect the authorities, to pray fervently for their benefit, and to pray earnestly for Chinese society. For the sake of the gospel, we are willing to suffer all external losses brought about by unfair law enforcement. Out of a love for our fellow citizens, we are willing to give up all of our earthly rights.
For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church. We declare that in matters of external conduct, churches are willing to accept lawful oversight by civil administration or other government departments as other social organizations do. But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation. We also will not accept any “ban” or “fine” imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives.
The situation has got consistently worse under Xi Jinping – who Raymond Huo holds close – who is reported to regard churches as “severe national security threats”.
And yet Raymond Huo is invited by the Speaker of our Parliament – presumably with the acquiescence of other party leaders, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition – to utter the daily prayer to the monotheistic Almighty God? It is shameful.
But also telling. After all, Simon Bridges last year signed up to the idea of a “fusion of civilisations” with this evil totalitarian regime. Party presidents, Haworth and Goodfellow, head up to Beijing and sing the praises of the party/State and of Xi Jinping himself.
And just the other day, the chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – about to become head of the PM’s department, and so we can presume was assuredly on-message – gave a rare published speech. In it he articulated New Zealand foreign policy, including among his ten basic principles this one
Second, be deliberate in supporting New Zealand’s values, speaking out in defence of them when required, even where that might put us at odds with others.
In fact, he quoted the Prime Minister from a speech earlier in the year
“In this uncertain world, where long accepted positions have been met with fresh challenge – our response lies in the approach that, with rare exceptions, we have always taken. Speaking up for what we believe in, standing up when our values are challenged and working tirelessly to refurbish rules and build architecture, and to draw in partners with shared views.
I can say with confidence that all of the Governments for which I have worked would hold these things to be true.
In which case, I guess we must be able to deduce the real values of our leaders – ministers past and present, and MPs – but what they do and don’t say. After all, they speak up for what they believe in, or so we are told?
When our Parliament invites a CCP-affiliated MP, who champions the interests of the atheistic PRC regime, and has his own party campaign under a Xi Jinping slogan, to open the day’s parliamentary sitting in prayer, in Chinese it seems unlikely that any of them care much about anything other than trade deals for big corporates and their donors, and none of them has the slightest regard for our own heritage, our own values, or for the freedom (including to worship, or not) of Christians, Muslims, and others in China. There are, so we are told, Christian MPs in our Parliament. But apparently not even a single one of them was willing to speak up, or speak out.
I don’t suppose New Zealand ranks very high among the issues that concern Beijing, but it must have been a good day in the relevant corners of Beijing officialdom yesterday – bonuses for the Ambassador perhaps – as they looked at the useful idiots masquerading as leaders in the New Zealand Parliament.
As a matter of urgency, we need someone – some party – to stand up for taking back our country, for asserting the values, traditions, and liberties of its people, the self-respect that (among other things) was presumably part of what attracted some ethnic Chinese to move here in the first place. As for the present leadership, heedless, careless, and useless……selling out their country (mostly not for personal enrichment) whether by their indifference or their active involvement.
Yes, it will have been a good day in Beijing. If the butchers ever take time to chuckle, yesterday might have been one of those days.