Voices in support of Anne-Marie Brady

Many, perhaps most, readers will have seen the article by Matt Nippert on the front page of yesterday’s Herald, about Professor Anne-Marie Brady and indications that her car may have been sabotaged.  This, of course, comes in the wake of break-ins to Professor Brady’s home and office, that are still –  months afterwards –  being investigated by the Police.  The strong suspicion has been that agents of the People’s Republic of China were involved in the break-ins, including (inter alia) because of what was, and wasn’t, taken, and letters that Professor Brady had received.  Yesterday’s article included this comment from Brady about the very slow-moving investigation.

She was unwilling to comment on the lengthy and still unfinished Police investigation, but told the New York Times in September the lack of comment or public action from government to date was “starting to look like procrastination”.

Official Wellington might be thought to have a strong interest in the investigation not coming to a conclusion, and it has (sadly) become difficult to have much confidence in the independence and integrity of the Police when it involves issues that matter to governments.

Nippert also included this section

The ongoing investigation …. had raised the temperature of local debate on the issue of China.

Commentary in local Chinese-language media has been an especially heated, with a recent op-ed by Morgan Xiao – published simultaneously by SkyKiwi, the Mandarin Pages and the New Zealand Chinese Daily News – describing Brady and other New Zealand-Chinese democracy activists as “anti-Chinese sons of bitches” who should “get out of New Zealand”.

Freeman Yu, whose New Zealand Values Alliance has started a petition urging the government to follow Australia’s lead and curb China’s local influence, was also called out by Xiao.

Yu said the language used in local debate had recently hardened, with “extreme expressions used in the Cultural Revolution”.

“The language used in their articles expressed intense hatred for different voices and the freedom of speech,” he said.

Comments sections on (for example) Stuff often don’t reveal humanity at its finest, but this is a description of a published op-ed.   New Zealanders should get out of New Zealand?

I know Professor Brady only slightly.  We’ve talked a couple of times and exchanged emails from time to time over the last year.  I’ve found her contribution to the New Zealand debate –  which seems to involve stepping a bit beyond her personal comfort zone (academics are often most comfortable behind the scenes) –  on these issues invaluable.   Such debate as there now is wouldn’t be occurring without her.

But Geremie Barmé and John Minford know Professor Brady very well.     Barmé and Minford are both emeritus professors at the Australian National University where Barmé was formerly Director, Australian Centre on China in the World and Chair Professor of Chinese History at Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific in Canberra.   They now live near Featherston –  which perhaps accounts for the number of China books I found in a Featherston secondhand bookshop recently –  and host The Wairarapa Academy for the New Sinology.  Their website has a fascinating collection of material, which I’ve linked to occasionally.

They have today put out a statement about Professor Brady, her work, her position and so on.   I’ve reproduced it here (with permission).

17 November 2018

Re: Professor Anne-Marie Brady

To Whom It May Concern,

Professor Anne-Marie Brady is a noted specialist in China’s domestic and foreign politics at the University of Canterbury. Her work on contemporary China, and its increasingly controversial global engagement, contributes directly to the national interest of New Zealand. It is also having a considerable impact internationally, not only in academic circles but also in political debates and policy formulation among the major allies and trading partners of this country.

As teachers and mentors of Professor Brady — John Minford was one of her undergraduate teachers at the University of Auckland; Geremie Barmé was a supervisor of her doctoral work at the Australian National University — we are proud of her achievements and we strongly support her ongoing academic research work and engagement with issues of public, national and international significance.

In February this year, we were profoundly disturbed to read media reports about break-ins at Professor Brady’s workplace and of her home office, resulting in the theft of electronic equipment and research materials. The details of the break-ins, still a subject of police investigation, suggested that Professor Brady was being subjected to intimidation for her internationally recognized work on official Chinese strategies to influence the politics and societies of foreign countries, in particular New Zealand. (See: https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/the-dominion-post/20180219/282355450217707) We were shocked by the latest media reports — on 16 November — that, during routine Warrant of Fitness maintenance, it was discovered that her vehicle may well have been purposely tampered with. There are indications that this was done to endanger the occupants of the vehicle: Professor Brady, her husband and their three teenage children. (See: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/108649435/professor-annemarie-brady-who-warned-about-china-interference-says-car-was-sabotaged )

The freedom from fear was long ago recognized as a basic human right; academics should be able to pursue their work, and their daily lives, without being subjected to intimidation. In any modern democracy worthy of the name, academic freedom and independent research are crucial “public goods”. They are also germane to university life.

As residents of New Zealand and as independent scholars — our main institutional affiliation is with The Australian National University as emeritus professors — we hereby express our deep concern about the on-going threats to Professor Anne-Marie Brady’s research and private life.

We hope that others whose research and teaching involves contemporary China will offer her and her important work collegial encouragement, as well as public support.

Furthermore, we also hope that the New Zealand authorities take the threats against Professor Brady seriously. We appeal to the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, and her coalition partner the Foreign Minister, the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters, to address directly the issues raised by her work which she has further articulated in practicable, and succinct, formal advice to the government.

Since September 2017, Professor Anne-Marie Brady’s work has attracted overwhelmingly positive global attention. It has also been subjected to vilification by Chinese officialdom. Regardless, her work continues to influence the debate about China’s “sharp power” on the international stage, and it contributes to practical policy discussions in Europe, North America and in Australia. This work remains ever more pressingly relevant to the public life, and the future, of her homeland.


Geremie R. Barmé
Professor Emeritus of History
The Australian National University
Founding Director, Australian Centre on China in the World
Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities

John Minford
Professor Emeritus of Chinese
The Australian National University
Sin Wai Kin Distinguished Professor
Hang Seng University of Hong Kong

To me, the most important lines in the statement are those addressed to our political leaders

We appeal to the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, and her coalition partner the Foreign Minister, the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters, to address directly the issues raised by her work

(To which I would add “and the leaders of the National Party, so recently in government”.)

They might also speak about, for example, things like that appalling op-ed from various Chinese-language local media.

Shameful as the government’s stance on, say, Xinjiang is –  the refusal to add our voice to the protest by our friends and allies –  we can’t change China.  But we  –  they –  have no such excuse when it comes to New Zealand itself, our political system, the environment facing freedom-loving ethnic Chinese New Zealanders, and the actions of the People’s Republic of China and its agents here.

And yet Matt Nippert’s article reminds us again of the supine, scared of their own shadow, attitude of the government.

Since May the Herald has been seeking to interview Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the governments’ China policy in light of Brady’s research and legislative action in Australia.

The Prime Ministers’ Office has regularly put off the request

Simply refusing to engage on such vital issues with a serious journalist from our largest newspaper is astonishing, and a telling commentary on how corrupted our political system appears to have become.  Perhaps as telling is the utter silence from the National Party on the government’s refusal to engage.

UPDATE: I would strongly recommend this new piece, by the commentator on China issues who goes under the label Jichang Lulu, to anyone at all interested in the PRC influence issues as they relate to New Zealand.