The Herald this morning reported on a new open letter in support of Anne-Marie Brady, this one from 169 (at present – the letter is still open apparently) overseas experts on issues relating to the People’s Republic of China. As the signatories note:
Since the publication of her work on global United Front work, Brady’s home and office have been subjected to burglaries, during which no valuable items other than electronic devices were stolen. Most recently, her car was found to have been tampered with in ways consistent with intentional sabotage. According to media reports, Interpol and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) are involved in the investigation. In China, academics were interrogated by Ministry of State Security agents after their institutions hosted Brady. Brady has also been personally attacked in media under the direction of the CCP, both in the PRC and in New Zealand. Taken together, these circumstances make it likely that this harassment campaign constitutes a response to her research on the CCP’s influence, and an attempt to intimidate her into silence.
Despite the evidence of CCP interference provided in Brady’s research, of which the harassment campaign appears to be a further example, the New Zealand government has been slow to take action and failed to acknowledge that a problem exists…..
Far from unique to New Zealand, the CCP’s global United Front tactics and other political influence operations have been documented in other locations, in Europe, Oceania, Asia and the Americas. ….Whether within or without the limits of the law of their target countries, these activities have considerable effects on their societies and merit evidence-based research and the attention of politicians and the media. The harassment campaign against Brady risks having a chilling effect on scholarly inquiry, allowing the CCP to interfere in the politics of our societies unfettered by informed scrutiny.
We urge the New Zealand authorities to grant Professor Brady the necessary protection to allow her to continue her research, sending a clear signal to fellow researchers that independent inquiry can be protected in democratic societies and conducted without fear of retribution.
We join other voices in support of Professor Brady, which have included statements by a New Zealand Chinese community organisation, some of her Canterbury University colleagues, New Zealand academics and two Australian Sinologists, as well as many others on social media.
We further hope decision makers and the public at large, in New Zealand and elsewhere, will engage with evidence-based research on the CCP’s United Front tactics, such as Brady’s Magic Weapons, and give due consideration to policy advice emanating from such research.
It is welcome that these (mostly) foreign experts are coming together in support of Professor Brady. But what sort of country have we become where such stands are even thought necessary? Once upon a time this was a bastion of democracy and liberty, and now our “leaders” cower in the corner, apparently unbothered about “little things” like the apparent intimidation of Professor Brady. It is a shameful choice. There are deal flows to keep going – students to enrol for the new academic year for example – and funding political parties doesn’t seem to come cheap. And barely a voice in Parliament – none from anywhere in our main parties – that appears troubled in the slightest.
Before I saw that open letter I’d been meaning to draw attention to an even more trenchant statement from closer to home, this one by Paul Buchanan, a former academic with a background in the US system, and who now runs a consultancy that describes itself this way
36th Parallel Assessments is a non-partisan, non-governmental geopolitical risk and strategic assessment consultancy.
Buchanan is an American who has lived here for a long time, and is in the process of becoming a citizen. From what I’ve read of his stuff over the years, his personal politics probably lean left. But his post pulls few punches about the abdication of responsibility being displayed by the Labour-led government on this issue.
I do not mean to bang on about the Anne Marie Brady case but since it is coming up on one year since the campaign of criminal harassment began against her, I feel compelled to mention how the Labour-led government’s silence has been used as a window of opportunity by pro-China conspiracy theorists to question her credibility and defame her. Until I blocked the troll I shall call “skidmark,” this was even seen here on KP [Kiwipolitic blog] where he launched numerous attacks on professor Brady as well as question the very notion that the burglaries and vandalism that she has been subjected to were somehow related to her work on PRC influence operations in NZ.
He goes on the outline a number of strands of attack made on Professor Brady by these “trolls”, each more far-fetched or unpleasant than the last. There are even people echoing the ludicrous and desperate claim made on the hustings last year by the then Attorney-General Chris Finlayson that Professor Brady was saying the stuff she was becasue she was “racist”.
Buchanan goes on
It is very likely that the government’s reticence to talk about the case is due to diplomatic concerns, and that political pressure has been put on the Police and SIS to delay offering any more information about the status of the investigation
That’s a serious claim, but almost nine months on – while the Prime Minister pretends this is just a normal suburban Police inquiry – it sounds plausible. Police, after all, have form in bending to the political wind.
Gathering from the tone of her recent remarks it appears that Ms. Brady is frustrated and increasingly frightened by the government’s inaction. I sympathise with her predicament: she is just one person tilting against much larger forces with relatively little institutional backing. I also am annoyed because this is a NZ citizen being stalked and serially harassed on sovereign NZ soil, most probably because of things that she has written, and yet the authorities have done pretty much nothing other than take statements and dust for fingerprints.
And expressed no hint of concern, let alone outrage, at the possibility of the involvement of a foreign power. (And, of course, no apparent interest at all in taking seriously the substantive concerns Professor Brady was highlighting about PRC “sharp power” in New Zealand.)
Buchanan concludes with a telling parallel and highlights just how unacceptable the government’s handling of this matter – apparently more interested in Beijing than in Brady – should be seen as.
If this was a domestic dispute in which someone was burglarising and vandalising a neighbour’s or ex-partner’s property, I imagine that the cops would be quick to establish the facts and intervene to prevent escalation. If that is the case then the same applies here. Because to allow these crimes to go unpunished without offering a word as to why not only demonstrates a lack of competence or will. It also encourages more of the same, and not just against Ms. Brady.
If one of the foundational duties of the democratic state is to protect the freedom and security of its citizens, it appears that in in this instance NZ has so far failed miserably. The government needs to step up and provide assurances that the investigation will proceed honestly to a verifiable conclusion and that it will work to ensure the safety of Anne Marie Brady against those who would wish to do her harm.
To not do so is to abdicate a basic responsibility of democratic governance.
Of course, the main opposition party shares in responsibility for, and ownership of, the government’s shameful abdication.
As I noted, one of the ludicrous claims made against Professor Brady – fluent in Chinese, married to a Chinese man – is that her work is motivated by racism. One of those who has made such claims in the Chinese-language media is Auckland writer Morgan Xiao, a past or present international student at the University of Auckland. He apparently writes fairly prolifically in various of the (CCP-controlled) Chinese-language outlets, which is of course his right. His Facebook page however advertises his Labour Party associations, listing himself as a member of Labour Botany electorate committee, and featuring of photo of himself posing with the Prime Minister. His writings are pretty pro-Beijing, and very anti-Brady. He has accused her of racism, and also of running the arguments she does because she has been paid by the Americans to do so. It is pretty florid stuff – he has new piece here this week (open in Chrome and Google Translate will give you the gist).
A few weeks ago, the Auckland-based dissident author, and editor of the Beijing Spring magazine, Chen Weijian published (in Chinese) a takedown of some of Morgan Xiao’s recent writing on this subject. I’ve previously published a translation of Chen Weijian’s article on Yikun Zhang (he of the National Party donations controversy, the Labour-bestowed QSM, and the close Beijing connection), and I was approached as to whether I’d be willing to make more widely available a translation of the latest article. The translation has been undertaken by Luke Gilkison (and reviewed by a native Chinese speaker) a recent graduate in Chinese language and literature who has also spent time living and studying in China. Both he and I would emphasise that the article is the work of Chen Weijian, and the views expressed are his and his alone, but his arguments seem to deserve wider circulation, especially given that Morgan Xiao himself is repeatedly returning to the issues. The rhetorical style isn’t mine, and in some areas his conclusions seem a little over-optimistic to me (I’m not so sure that “the mainstream political ideology of our time is liberal democracy”). But for those interested, the full translation is here
As a flavour
On the matter of New Zealand–China relations, Xiao went on to say this:
For a long time now, the National Party and the Chinese government have had frequent interactions. Many former National MPs have gone on to consultancy jobs within CCP-linked companies, and every time the Chinese government hosts an event, the number of National Party attendees far exceeds that of any other party. It’s evident that within National, at least, it is well known that China and New Zealand’s relationship is innocuous – otherwise how could these two parties, National and the CCP, be so close? Would that not be treason?
This last part is said very well. Although I don’t know for sure what National would say to these assertions, I’m fairly sure they would have some choice words for this young man. Something along the lines of, “How on Earth is this helping us? You’re clearly intending to ruin us. Subterfuge!
He writes an editorial column on the website Skykiwi, and he’s a contributing writer for the People’s Daily, a state-run Chinese newspaper, where he writes under his Chinese name, Xiao Zhihong (肖志鸿). You’re more likely to find Xi Jinping thought in his Skykiwi column than anything reflecting New Zealand values. This quote from Xi Jinping appears in one of his columns, for example: “Our vision for democracy is not merely a system of one person, one vote. We strive to reflect the will of the people, and in this regard we not only do not fall short of the West, but we greatly surpass it.”
How does Xiao understand CCP-style democracy and “universal values”? This is his opinion on the Tiananmen Square massacre:
Murderers and arsonists are criminals with no hope for rehabilitation. ….. But those June 4th bottom-feeders burnt and beat to death hundreds of soldiers, set fire to thousands of vehicles, and looted an army arsenal. People who commit wanton violence and destruction like this are beyond hope of rehabilitation. The condemnation of these crimes is a universal value. I say let us string up these June 4th rioters and beat them!
Perhaps if the Prime Minister ever chooses to speak out against the intimidation of Professor Brady, or to begin to take seriously the issues Professor Brady has repeatedly raised, she might make clear that she strongly disapproves of this sort of stuff from a Labour Party electorate committee member.
Then again, I guess Morgan Xiao was really only following her lead, when a few months ago she was committing to closer relations between Labour and the CCP and of party president Nigel Haworth who was in Beijing praising the regime and Xi Jinping just a few months earlier.
It is an abdication of New Zealand values – hand in hand with the National Party. We need leaders who see government, and international relations, as more than just the sum of the deals, the sum of the flow of political party donations. There is little sign that we have such “leaders” anywhere in politics.