On refusing to hear from Prof. Brady

[Note that this afternoon Huo backed down and is now inviting Brady to appear.  While welcome, it is pretty chaotic –  the PM’s office supported the ban this morning –  and hard questions should be posed to all the Labour MPs involved, including the PM. If/when she appears it will be extensively covered by domestic and foreign media, with almost every story prefaced by “in the appearance the committee chair tried to prevent happening at all…]

Perhaps it went down well in Beijing, but it is hard to imagine it did so anywhere else. Even China Council Advisory Board member and China Business Summit co-chair Fran O’Sullivan tweeted that it was a mistake.

fran

My own tweet of the Herald’s article on the story, noting that it seemed almost literally unbelievable (but nonetheless true), was retweeted by quite a range of PRC-focused journalists and the like, and many others have drawn attention themselves to this extraordinary mis-step (the most charitable possible interpretation) by our PRC-deferential government.

Yesterday, the four Labour members of Parliament’s Justice select committee voted to block Professor Anne-Marie Brady from appearing in front of the committee as part of its investigation into foreign interference in our election.   That committee is chaired by Raymond Huo, who has close associations with various PRC United Front bodies, and was personally responsible for adopting a slogan of Xi Jinping’s as Labour’s campaign slogan among ethnic Chinese communities in New Zealand.

After each general election, Parliament’s Justice committee undertakes a review.  They invite public submissions, an opportunity for people to raise issues of concern (eg bizarre laws that mean that despite huge volumes of advance voting, you can say anything partisan you like on all those days, but are subject to very tight restrictions on so-called “election day”).  Each time, the committee makes a choice about a particular area to focus on.

This time round public submissions closed last September.  In October –  note that October comes after September –  the Minister of Justice (who is also responsible for the intelligence services) wrote to the committee encouraging it to focus on foreign interference issues.   The committee adopted the Minister’s suggestion.  This was, to repeat, after the opportunity for public submissions had already closed.

According to the media reports, Professor Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University, recently wrote to the committee and asked to be heard as part of its inquiry.    The committee voted yesterday, splitting on party lines, to refuse.    This was, we are told, on “narrow procedural grounds”, or in the words of Mr Huo the chairman

huo

If we don’t tell you (in fact don’t know ourselves) we are looking into the subject until after the normal date for submissions has closed, somehow it is your fault if you didn’t read Andrew Little’s mind and make a submission anyway.   After all, it is such a trivially unimportant issue and your view so lacking in usefulness, that why would we even think about making an exception and taking up your kind offer to come and testify, sharing your professional expertise in the area.

Huo and his Labour colleagues on the committee (Ginny Anderson, Duncan Webb and Greg O’Connor, each of whom one might have expected more from –  one a lawyer, two former Police employees) are acting disgracefully.  They dishonour Parliament and our democracy.

I’ve been a bit sceptical about this inquiry all along.  When National MP Nick Smith suggested a few months ago a foreign donations ban, and noted that the intelligence services would be invited to talk to the Justice Committee inquiry, I wrote this

So a committee chaired by Raymond Huo, he of various United Front bodies, he who chose a slogan of Xi Jinping’s for Labour Chinese-language compaign in 2017, with a senior National MP promoting only the narrowest reform (while [still] providing cover for Jian Yang) will invite the intelligence agencies to provide advice on foreign influence issues, but in secret.   Perhaps –  but only perhaps, because the fact of this hearing might be used to simply play distraction – it is marginally better than nothing, but we don’t need intelligence agencies to tell us there is an issue around the PRC. Both main parties know what they are doing –  who they associate with, who they take money from, who they honour, who they seek closer relations with, and who they refuse ever to criticise, no matter how egregious the regime’s abuses.  All the minor parties keep quiet and go along too.

I’m still more than a little suspicious of National in this area, but credit to them for pushing the Brady (non)appearance to a vote, and championing the importance of outside perspectives –  even awkward ones for them –  being heard.  Next thing you know they’ll be disowning Jian Yang.  But no, silly me….

It seems from the various news articles that Labour MPs only want the intelligence services to testify to the inquiry.

The Committee had asked the Security Intelligence Service, the Government Communications and Security Bureau and the National Assessments Bureau to appear.

“As committee chair, I am satisfied that the correct procedure has been followed and that the agencies will keep the committee well informed about any issues of foreign interference that may arise,” Huo said in a statement.

Of course the intelligence services –  while no doubt exercising some integrity in their comments –  work for (Labour) cabinet ministers.  And many of the sorts of issues Anne-Marie Brady has raised, in particular in her Magic Weapons paper , aren’t primarily matters for the intelligence services at all, but more about political culture and integrity.  For what it is worth, whenever in my career I dealt with the National Assessments Bureau, it further undercut my confidence.

It has always been a slight mystery why the government, in the form of Andrew Little, initiated this foreign interference focus to the post-election inquiry.  After all, very soon after becoming minister for the intelligence services Little was on record as regards the PRC saying words to the effect of “move right along, nothing to see here”.   Like his leader, he’s never expressed any concern about a former PRC military intelligence official sitting in Parliament, actually in the government caucus for six years.

Perhaps all they really wanted was some cyber-focused thing, perhaps building off all the stuff around Russian social media activity in the lead-up to the US election.   Perhaps there is even something useful they can do in that area, but it is like digging in pursuit of hidden treasure while ignoring the issues and risks that are in plain sight.   It was, after all, former diplomat and now lobbyist, Charles Finny who observed on national TV that, in view of their close ties to the PRC Embassy he was always rather guarded in what he said in front of either Raymond Huo or Jian Yang.   Large political donations flow to parties from New Zealand citizens with close PRC regime ties.  The mayor of Auckland was elected with heavy financial support from a large offshore (PRC) donor.  One (now) prominent regime-associated political donor managed to gets a Queen’s Birthday last year, supported by both main parties.   Senior figures in Chatham House fora express open concern about the reliance of the main parties on PRC-sympathetic funding.  PRC interests now dominate the Chinese language media in New Zealand.  Perhaps the public servants have some perspectives on these and other issues, but public service perspectives are not (and never should be) the only ones being heard by MPs.

I initially wondered if this block on Brady was simply Raymond Huo going off reservation. He doesn’t seem to be regarded as the best of the bunch in the Labour caucus.  Nick Smith even suggested the Prime Minister might intervene

Smith said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needed to intervene and ask the Labour members of the committee to reconsider their decision.

But, as Newsroom reports, the Labour MPs on the committee appear to have the full backing of the Prime Minister

A spokesman for Ardern echoed Huo’s comments, saying: “Our position would be that this is a procedural matter for the committee and that the various agencies presenting are well placed to provide information on foreign interference and the threat of it.”

Simply extraordinary.  Either captured by the public service and/or by those trying to tap the PRC-related markets (deals or donations).  Someone still not interested in serious and open examination of the issues.  Another Prime Minister more interested in deferring to Beijing, never ever saying anything upsetting if it can possibly be avoided, than in shedding light on the issues in New Zealand, and advancing the decency and integrity of our political system.  The same Prime Minister who has never made a robust defence of Anne-Marie Brady, facing physical attempts to intimidate her for doing her job.  Pretty shameful really, if perhaps now par for the prime ministerial course.

Labour will take, and have already taken, quite a bit of flak over this blatant refusal to hear from Professor Brady.  Invited to testify to the Australian Parliament, our own main governing party (party of the Prime Minister, party of the minister for the intelligence services) is apparently too scared to openly face her in our own Parliament.  What an extraordinary situation.  One wonders what the Minister of Foreign Affairs –  in fine voice often in opposition, silent as a lamb in government –  makes of this choice by his senior coalition partner?

If the Prime Minister or Andrew Little really are behind this ban, they must be very worried about Professor Brady might say, and the coverage it might get.  Why otherwise would you block her?  If her arguments and evidence were so easy to dismiss and rebut, where better than at a parliamentary inquiry (with all the resources of the public service to support the government).  They’re clearly scared.

Professor Brady’s paper isn’t primarily, or even largely, about Raymond Huo. In many respects, he is a bit player.  But here for ease of reference is what Brady wrote about the chair of Parliament’s Justice Committee, appointed by our Prime Minister.

National’s ethnic Chinese MP Yang Jian, Labour’s Raymond Huo, and ACT’s Kenneth Wang have had varying degrees of relations with united front organizations in New Zealand and the PRC embassy.

and

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 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.”

and

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 individual donations, Goff’s largest donor, giving $50,000, was Fuwah New Zealand Ltd, a Chinese-owned company building a 5-star hotel on Auckland’s waterfront and working closely with the New Zealand One Belt One Road Promotion Council.

and

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.

For someone who claims that his activities and involvements are all fair and proper and just the sort of thing one expects MPs to do, he and his masters certainly act –  in the Brady affair –  as if there is something to hide, something that might leave them rather uncomfortable.

That is supposed to be the point of parliamentary scrutiny, parliamentary inquiries.  But not, it appears, in this country, on these issues.  Better to keep Madame Wu happy than bother overly much about our own people, their interests, and their system of government.  It is still an odd call though.  Professor Brady shows no sign of being intimidating or stopping her work. If it refuses to engage and examine the issues she is raising, Parliament reveals itself the problem more than the people we can look to for the solution.  Oh, but I forgot, according to the government there is no problem.

 

32 thoughts on “On refusing to hear from Prof. Brady

    • The dead hand of the tyrant Xi now has veto over New Zealand’s politics.

      We are like those prisoners in struggle committees who are forced to bow their heads.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. Funnily enough I put off writing til this afternoon wondering if there would be a backdown. It seemed unlikely after the PM’s office weighed in in support of Huo. The outcome probably ends up better than if they’d just invited her straight off, but serious questions still need asking – of the Labour ctte members, and of the PM and her office – as to how this was allowed to happen at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Someone needs to shine the torch on the selection process for MMP candidates. The major parties have selected list candidates from ethnic communities to reflect diversity in the country and that is to be applauded. (Though I believe Simon Bridges is on record as saying the Indians were useless).
    However, what we see in New Zealand’s Chinese community is a level of control by the government of the PRC that we don’t see with other ethnic communities. There was a time when NZ Chinese were either descended from 1860’s goldminers or came here to escape the Communist takeover of China in 1949. I met such people in the 1980’s and they had nothing good to say about Chairman Mao and his party. But since the 1990’s the immigrants to NZ from mainland China have been vetted politically safe CCP members who came almost as political missionaries to influence the Chinese community here. They bought up Chinese language newspapers, sponsored all sorts of events, became the leading force in the community and the people NZ politicians would gravitate to, for voting blocs. So today both Labour and National take advice from these CCP agents, as to who should be the next list candidate. That is a issue worth investigating.
    some might ask why would the PRC bother? The reason is to influence opinion and policy with regards to China and it’s actions in the world. Getting onto a foreign relations committee or intelligence committee would be the highest goal, as it would help China the most.
    What has the SIS been doing through all this? Are NZ politicians so naive they can’t see what’s going on, or don’t they care, mollified by the promise of economic riches?

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Notwithstanding Huo’s apparent volte-face surely an Opposition can find a way to have some sort of hearing and invite Prof Brady. We the people and all that.

    Like

    • Looks as though she will be appearing. Formal parliamentary events command attention – incl media attentions – opposition MP party events rarely do. I imagine Brady’s appearance will be one of the most heavily reported occasions, including by foreign media, of the NZ year. Would have been big without the initial ban, will be much bigger now – and every story will include the line “this is the appearance chair Raymond Huo tried to ban”

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Is the Labour Party taking funds from the Chinese Communist Party through members of the United Front? They seemed to think so at a hearing in Washington last year:

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12058818

    Do I recall correctly that Andrew Little referred to the “fraternal” links between Labour and the CCP when visiting China as Leader of the Opposition? If so, now we know what he means.

    Is the venality of our political leadership without parallel? What’s next?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “closer party-to-party exchanges” (from the mtg last year of Ardern and the Guangdong party chief)
    http://www.chinaembassy.org.nz/eng/zxgxs/t1595146.htm

    I’m half inclined to believe in the incompetence hypothesis. Huo, who never should have had the Justice chair job, clearly didn’t want her testifying, and his Labour colleagues on the ctte are all first termers – albeit well-regarded ones – so perhaps they too readily deferred to him and his personal sensitivities. Whether there was contact with the PM’s office or not beforehand (perhaps not), once the story broke they were too incompetent to recognise the damage and insist on an immediate backdown.

    It might all be more nefarious than that, but stuff-up stories often explain more than one might like….and it.still leaves Labour looking bad and the country poorly-governed. And more attention on Huo than ever….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was still a bit surprised that CCP’s censorship arm extended to such a level (in a selected committee!!), and in such an obvious way although I knew….

    after Jian Yang’s incident, Huo was quietly promoted to No.13 in Labour’s list and the top job in the justice committee. Prof. Brady has found too many secrets of Huo.

    before the 2017 election, somebody in the Chinese community circulated an article questioning Huo’s 9 “achievements” etc. later the couple was sued and convicted proving Huo is an excellent lawyer. now you can not find that letter online and the Chinese community here all shut up on it fearing they may go to the court.

    good censorship already. chinese New Zealanders still live in fear of things like this. No wonder Jacobi etc. are self-censored (may extend censorship to other kiwis occasionally as well.)

    could anybody here lend your hand to me if I got into trouble for this?…. I do feel a big hand following me all the time, the same as others in the Chinese community in NZ.

    if Prof. Brady were shut out this time, the chilling effect… cannot imagine.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “somebody in the Chinese community circulated an article questioning Huo’s 9 “achievements” etc. later the couple was sued and convicted proving Huo is an excellent lawyer. now you can not find that letter online and the Chinese community here all shut up on it fearing they may go to the court.”

      What the heck….of course you can’t find the letter online because it was obviously slanderous under New Zealand law, and Huo won his case in a NZ court.

      What friggin website or person would be stupid enough to wave round a letter that has already resulted in successful legal action against it, in any country in the world.

      Nothing sinister in this at all.

      Like

      • Nothing sinister? Forget the letter. Is the “Libei Bateman” a Chinese person? If so talk of ” a big hand following me all the time, the same as others in the Chinese community” suggests a community in fear of upsetting the CCP while living in New Zealand. And if that is true, that is sinister and intolerable in our country.

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      • Watched Marama Fox on Sunday R&R(Maori Television) put her views across on Chinese Investments. From a Maori Party perspective, she did indicate that Chinese culture and way of doing things does align more closely with Maori than our current alternative. She believes strongly that the Chinese can invest and partner with Maori for infrastructure projects and her discussions with them is that they are ready and willing to invest without any political or cultural interference.

        I think Maori does have a Look East agenda and Maori does have a huge influence on our Labour/NZFirst/Greens government.

        Like

  6. Contemporary New Zealand politics are rotten to the core. I believe this has largely come about because of List Seats which parties can trade in exchange for donations without candidates having to pass the scrutiny of an electorate. It appears the CCP’s United Front has been adept in exploiting this dangerous lesion in our MMP system. The public’s trust in and regard for politicians has been greatly eroded and the outlook for good governance in New Zealand is extremely negative.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. O’Sullivan surely tweeted because she’s attempting to distance herself from being a pro-China shill. She’s attacked the woman before and will again no doubt after she’s appeared at the committee knowing full well Brady can not disclose her sources. Brady hilariously retweeted a tweet about Senior Reuter’s journalists being offered cash by Huawai.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fran O’Sullivan is on the Advisory Commitee for the New Zealand China Council and has always appeared to be pro-Chinese investment in NZ, including in the Dairy Industry. Just how far that extends to supporting political subservience, ( as appears to be the case with several former NZ MP’s) remains to be seen.

      Like

  8. If you can’t beat them join them. Let our political parties publically auction say 5 list seats to foreign governments; only one per country. Minimum bid $5m. We would get a National and Labour list MP from China, Taiwan, Australia and my guess two of UK/Fiji/Korea/Japan/Saudi Arabia. This would give our parliament the diversity our academics claim make organisations more productive – the bonus would be some interesting debates and parliamentary questions.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. On “Stuff” they reprinted (from Newsroom) Thomas Couglan’s 8th March story on Anne-Marie Brady being blocked from the foreign interference inquiry. What I noticed today was that of 235 comments to the story, almost all (probably well over 95%) were supportive of A-M B having the opportunity to make a submission, and critical of both political parties and CCP influence. I think that almost unanimous support for Brady and concern that NZ is drifting into a subservient relationship to China, and disgust at the featherbedding antics of politicians, shows the NZ public is finally waking up and doesn’t like what it’s seeing.

    Like

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