I’ve already written about the slow and painful efforts to get Police to reveal details of the visiting professorship they had allowed one of their senior officers to take up at the PRC People’s Public Security University (the university of the Ministry of Public Security).
The day after the belated Police response finally arrived, a reader sent me a link to another example of the New Zealand Police cosying up to the regime in Beijing. Here was the whole of my initial post:
A reader sent me the link, and this is what Google Translate generates:
Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau and New Zealand Oakland Police Department signed a friendly cooperation arrangement
Source: Guangzhou Municipal People’s Government Foreign Affairs Office published:2019-05-05 17:51
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of the international friendship city relationship between Guangzhou and Auckland, and to strengthen the police cooperation between the two cities, Yang Jianghua, deputy mayor of Guangzhou and director of the Municipal Public Security Bureau, and the assistant police chief of the Auckland City Police Department of New Zealand on April 29 Lena Hassan ( Naila Hassan ) signed a “friendship and cooperation with the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau Auckland, New Zealand Police to arrange the book” in the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau. It is reported that this is the first time that the Guangzhou police and foreign police have signed a cooperation intention, which indicates that the law enforcement agencies of the two places will formally cooperate in police exchanges and police training.
“Police exchanges” with the Guangzhou branch of the Ministry of Public Security……….. Surely this cannot mean that MPS officers will be let loose with law enforcement powers in New Zealand? Surely…..
I looked on the Auckland police website, I looked at the Minister of Police’s website, and I looked at the main Police news releases page, and there was nothing about this deal.
I wonder if Police, or their Minister, were ever planning on telling New Zealand citizens and voters about their deal with the PRC domestic repression apparatus?
Yesterday, I mentioned the Gestapo, but one doesn’t need to invoke (quite valid) Nazi comparisons with the People’s Republic of China. Would Police – or elected governments – have thought such friendship and exchange deals were appropriate with the domestic security forces of the Soviet Union, or Pinochet’s Chile, with Galtieri’s Argentina, with apartheid South Africa, or……or…..or……
It just should not be. And it clearly isn’t the case that this is just normal stuff (“everyone does it”) – it is the PRC side that stresses that this is the first such arrangement for Guangzhou.
I’m not fond of the phrase “social licence”, but if it must be used this is an example of how government agencies – allegedly working for our interests – risk forfeiting theirs.
I will be lodging an OIA requesting details of this agreement.
And so I did, on 8 May. I asked Police for
1. Text (in English and – if it exists – Chinese) of the recent agreement signed between the Guangzhou bureau of public security and the Auckland police district.
2. Any advice re the agreement to the Minister (and/or his office)
3. Any consultation with other government agencies on it.
4. Any internal position papers evaluating the possibility of this agreement, including any risks, and pros and cons.
And I had an acknowledgement of my request the next day. So far, so proper.
I heard nothing more for a couple of weeks and then I had this from Police in Auckland.
We have received your request for information
Before we can process this request we require some form of photo ID. The best is a photo of your driver’s licence and a photo of you holding your licence.
Now, I’ve been using the Official Information Act for years and had never had such a request. In fact, Police has responsed to my earlier OIA just a few days previously (very slowly but) without asking for photo ID. Apparently, agencies are allowed to check that someone is entitled to make a request, but Police by then had my address, my phone number, and I’m in the telephone book (and readily Google-able).
Anyway, I went back to them and asked them for the statutory basis for their request, noting that Police had responded to earlier requests without photo ID. I heard nothing more.
A few days later (27 May), I had a letter from a Senior Sergeant in Auckland, extending my request by a couple of weeks (beyond the statutory 20 working days), to 18 June. He claimed they needed the additional time because of the “consultation we need to do on your request”. That extension was probably lawful (albeit only because it looks as though it had taken almost 20 (calendar) days for anyone Police to really look at the substance of the request).
And then on 20 June, I had another letter for Senior Sergeant Housley (who is the Auckland District Police OIA co-ordinator), this time extending the request to 18 July, citing the need for “further consultation”. That argument was already wearing thin, but what really bothered me was that it is against the law to extend OIA requests if the extension is made after the statutory 20 working days has passed. The Ombudsman has been quite explicitly clear on that.
Nothing in the OIA prevents multiple extensions being made, providing any extensions are made within the original 20 working day time period after receiving the request. For example, if an agency notifies the requester of a one week extension, and then later realises that a two week extension is actually necessary, a second extension may be notified as long as the original 20 working day time period has not yet passed.
In this case, not only had the 20 working days passed when the second extension was made but so had the deadline on the first extension. I went back to Senior Sergeant Housley and pointed out that his extension was unlawful, but (unsurprisingly) I got no response.
This morning, I finally had a letter from Senior Sergeant Housley substantively responding to my request, politely thanking me for my “patience”. And what little they released – and, in fact, what little they held, gives the lie to the claim that “consultations” and “further consultations” were necessary. All they released was the text of the agreement (see below), the substance of which the PRC side had been boasting of two months ago, and all they withheld was advice from MFAT on the wording of the agreement (which can’t have been very long, and which I never expected them to release – standard OIA exceptions: my interest had been mostly in seeing who, if anyone, had been consulted. I have now lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman about (a) the unlawful second extension, and (b) the dubious claims about “consultation” and (especially) “further consultation”. But this is the Police…….in a well-functioning system, you’d hope a Police force would fall over itself to act lawfully, spirit and letter. Then again, I guess this is modern New Zealand, where complying with the law seems like an optional extra for too many public agencies.
What of the substance? Here is the agreement itself (Chinese and English), and Mr Housley’s letter.
There are a few things of note in the (short) agreement itself (and any Chinese-speaking readers might like to check that the Chinese version says the same as the English version, both of which are signed).
First, it is pretty clear that the initiative for this must have come from the PRC side. The first version of the agreement is in Chinese, and the English version is clearly a not-particularly-colloquial version/translation (“Based on joint benefits and laws in both countries, the two participants accept to exchange…” is clearly not something written by a native English speaker).
It is pretty easy to see what is in it for the PRC. They have whole webs of organisations and agreeements designed to tie people, institutions, and countries more closely to their odious regime, lending a (hitherto) good name to one that should be held in very low esteem. And New Zealand has clearly been a soft touch, and so (recall the initial release) the Auckland Police will have made a good place to start for a first such agreeement.
But what on earth is in it for New Zealanders? Police officers hot-footed it to Guangzhou – presumably at taxpayers’ expense – to do the kowtow and sign up to an agreement that dignifies the repressive law enforcements mechanisms of the PRC as somehow akin to a Police force in a (hitherto) free, open and democratic society. To what end, other than the typically craven approach of the New Zealand “establishment” – more deals, more party donations, improved electoral prospects for Phil Goff?
Second, the substance, such as it is
It is a simple question really that Police make no attempt to answer: what benefits will the New Zealand Police – supposedly responsible, via ministers, to the New Zealand public gain from their cooperation and exchanges with Guangzhou, a force that acts to enforce the will of the CCP (and where presumably no officer can serve if they are suspected at all of sympathies with – say – Christianity, Islam, Falun Gong, let alone the rule of law and democracy). This force operates just over the border from Hong Kong, where civil liberties have already been jeopardised, aided and abetted by the Police. Won’t all the senior officials the Auckland Police delegation were pandering to likely be CCP members?
And what of the letter I got from Police?
Among the things I found interesting is that there was no advice at all of this agreement to the offices of the Minister of Police or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I suppose most likely Police simply anticipated the preferences of our politicians – after all, last week Ron Mark was signing up to a defence agreement with the PRC (quite extraordinary: we sign a defence agreement with a country that openly talks of seizing a free and democratic country by force).
Perhaps more worrying – but perhaps not surprising, given the widespread Wellington view of Police competence and capability – is that I was told there was no position paper or similar reviewing pros and cons, risks and opportunities etc that an agreement with the odious PRC forces might entail. So what happened? Did Guangzhou Police simply take someone in Auckland to lunch and sweet talk them into flying over to sign up? It can’t quite have been that bad surely, but this simply isn’t proper or prudent policymaking.
But then they made up a rationale on the fly. Recall that none of this was documented before the agreement was signed, it was simply in a letter to me dated today.
There is no formal ‘position paper’ in existence evaluating the possibility or the ‘pros and cons’ of the Letter. However the Police position is that 2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Guangzhou and Auckland – Auckland’s longest standing and most successful sub-national partnership in China.
This relationship has been significantly strengthened as a result of the Tripartite Economic Alliance that was signed in 2014 between Auckland, Guangzhou and Los Angeles. The relationship between the cities goes back to the time of the gold rush in New Zealand, when many Chinese came across to New Zealand with a significant number finally settling in Auckland. Latest statistics indicating that up to one in three greater Aucklanders are likely to identify as Asian by 2038. Close transport connections (twice daily direct flights between the cities), the immense trade and significant crime connections make the relationship between Guangzhou and Auckland crucial to both cities. Other areas Police would benefit from this relationship include, training, narcotics and economic crime investigations.
In summary this is an extension to the sister city relationship. With the proposed growth in the Asian population in Tamaki Makaurau over the next two decades this letter of friendship will enhance the relationship and benefit both Guangzhou Public Security Bureau and Tamaki Makaurau Police as it will present opportunities for each of us to learn from our colleagues.
Much of which is simply weird. We have a national Police force, not (unlike, say, the UK system) a city-based one. What is the national Police force doing signing up agreeements with odious foreign forces to support the sister-city partnership signed up by some elected local body politicians? Recall, that the current Auckland mayor substantially funded his last campaign with large anonymous “donations” including from an auction of works of Xi Jinping. Goff was one of those who nominated the CCP-aligned Yikun Zhang for a royal honour, for what amounted in effect to services to Beijing. This agreement has the feel of something that the Mayor’s office will have liked. Perhaps it will help with this year’s fundraising?
And what about all that puffery about the Gold Rush? We had German immigrants back to the 19th century and it didn’t make the first Labour government any keener on dealing with the Gestapo. Perhaps the Senior Sergeant and his bosses didn’t notice that whatever the “Asian” share of the population 20 years hence, “Asia” is not the same as the PRC, not even all immigrant ethnic Chinese come from the PRC, and many who did come want to be free of the clutches and mindset of the PRC. The PRC – not China, but the PRC/CCP – is a threat more than an opportunity, at least to anyone with a modicum of integrity and morality.
And, once again, what does the Auckland wing of the New Zealand Police think they are going to learn about policing from their friends in Guangzhou? Whatever it is, seems unlikely to be in the best interests of New Zealanders.
There is a level at which it is tempting to just ignore these things. Individually, I don’t suppose the agreement means very much. Bad as Police are in many respects, they aren’t quite yet the Guangzhou bureau of public security, and this agreement is isolation won’t change that much. But it all speaks of a mindset in which our establishment agencies and individuals seem to have lost any real sense of right and wrong, of fundamental decency, and recognising odious regimes when they see them. Yes, there need to be basic, formally correct, relations with the PRC, as with a bunch of other dreadful regimes, but we simply shouldn’t be signing friendship agreements, declaring ourselves “strategic partners”, of offering to help make their dreadful regime even more effective in what it seeks to do. Do our leaders – politicians and Police – really live by any values other than deals, donations, and the bonhomie (and self-delusion) that goes with cosying up to such a regime? Not on the evidence of agreements like this.
Oh, and the Official Information Act really does apply to Police to. Our Police – unlike China’s – are supposed to be subject to the law, not subject to the Party.