Xinjiang: an opportunity for Ardern and Bridges

On my way home this afternoon I listened to an interview, in the Sinica podcast series (on all sorts of matters Chinese), with Nury Turkel, chairman and founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.  For anyone at all interested in the subject it is well worth listening to.

As the interviewer himself put it, he is someone who is not generally seen as anti-PRC, and indeed regards himself as still being listened to to some extent by some of the more strongly nationalistic/pro-PRC people.  But he is clearly appalled at what is going on in Xinjiang, initiated and executed by the regime in Beijing.

In the programme notes there is this summary

6:44: Nury calls for a larger international coalition to decry the horrors in Xinjiang, and highlight the shadow that Uyghur internment will cast on the longer history of China, stating, “In the end, we want two things. One, we want the camps to be shut down. It’s an embarrassment to the Chinese people, even in their history. It needs to be shut down. And, two, we want to be able to restore the Uyghur people’s basic dignity. Give them their dignity and respect back.”

In the course of the discussion it was noted that while Beijing is not generally that receptive to international criticism and pressure at all,  some people are more likely to be listened to –  or be awkward for the regime – than others. Hardline permanent anti-Beijing hawks are easily brushed off.

But people, institutions, and countries that have toadied to Beijing at every turn are a different matter.  Much as I am critical of Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges I don’t believe either of them is likely to be comfortable with the atrocity that is Xinjiang.    Fairly or rationally or not, the Prime Minister now seems to carry with her  –  perhaps internationally even more than at home – some sort of halo of kindness, decency etc.  That image etc surely carries some responsibility.

New Zealand doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things, but precisely because our main political parties and successive governments have been such toadies, it would not be nothing –  in Beijing or in the rest of the world – if Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges rediscovered some moral core, some courage, some decency, and were willing (together perhaps) to openly and publicly deplore what is going on in Xinjiang.   (They might add in the plight of Falun Gong, Christian believers, and so on too).  To call it as it is: a moral stain, and one that blights the reputation of any leaders who just walk past quietly, or make excuses  (Todd McClay) for the atrocity.

Fairly or not, it often isn’t the people who strongly opposed evil from the start whom history remembers most favourably, but those who once walked with the perpetrators of evil and then stepped away and spoke up early enough.   The evil in Xinjiang has gone on quite long enough, that no decent person should any longer be able to turn a blind eye.  That includes New Zealand’s sycophantic officeholders.

For anyone interested in learning more, Sinica has a monthly article on the situation in Xinjiang.

 

Raymond Huo’s creative reimagining

In my post yesterday afternoon I mentioned that Labour MP Raymond Huo (he of various United Front affiliations and apparently regarded as close to the PRC Embassy) had an op-ed in yesterday’s Herald (strangely not apparently available on-line, although there is a photo of the article here). [UPDATE: Herald link working again.] As I noted, the article is welcome for Huo’s overdue indication that he will recuse himself from involvement in bits of the Justice Committee’s deliberations on the foreign interference aspects of the election inquiry “to avoid any perceived conflict of interest”.   Huo chairs that committee.

But the centrepiece of Huo’s article is a creative reimagining of history in which he tries to pretend that he (and his colleagues) had never opposed hearing from Professor Anne-Marie Brady.    There had never been any intention of blocking Brady, and they had just been waiting to consult the GCSB and the SIS before deciding whether to re-open submissions.  The whole thing was, he claims, a beat-up by National’s Nick Smith.

I doubt anyone really believes him, probably not even the other Labour MPs he persuaded to vote for blocking Brady (not then recusing himself), but in case there is any doubt, here is his own tweet from 6 March

The clear implication is that it was simply Professor Brady’s fault that she had not got on and submitted earlier (even though the deadline was before Andrew Little extended the scope of the inquiry).

Here is his quote from the article he himself links to:

Justice committee chairman Labour MP Raymond Huo said the decision to decline Brady’s late request was purely procedural.

The closing date for submissions was over five months ago on 23 September 2018 and the date was widely publicised by committee staff in the usual way, he said in a statement.

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.

No hint there of someone who really wanted to hear all the evidence, all perspectives.

And, at the time, Huo was backed by the Prime Minister’s office

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.”

At the time, even some cheerleaders for the see–no-evil hear-no-evil approach to the PRC came out and stated that they thought Huo had overreached.  And, of course, a few hours later he was in full backdown mode, and is now trying to rewrite history to put himself in a less unfavourable light.  He doesn’t seem to have considered that actually fessing up and saying “yes, I made a mistake, I regret it” would be more likely to generate a favourable response.

Huo concluded his op-ed noting that “robust debate, not stereotyping or sweeping generalisations, will help examine the real issues”.  That is exactly what Professor Brady has been promoting, and what Raymond Huo (supported by his bosses and colleagues) seems, until now, to have been trying to avoid.   (To his credit, he actually wrote an op-ed.  National’s Jian Yang – he of the Communist Party membership, misrepresentations on official documents, and long service in the PLA military intelligence system –  just refuses to face English language media, protected in doing so by Simon Bridges.)

UPDATE: A reader writes to share the text of a letter of protest sent to Labour members of the committee after the initial blocking, and to the Prime Minister, and news of one Labour MP’s decent response.

Pandering to the PRC

The capital’s daily newspaper the Dominion-Post had an editorial that must have warmed hearts in the Beehive and MFAT.   “Fawning” would not be too strong a word for it.

The handshakes appeared warm, the smiles generous. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the talks as constructive.  China’s President Xi Jinping said New Zealand was a “sincere friend and co-operative partner”, one of his country’s closest relationships with the developed West.

Job done. Trust restored. Many billions of dollars in trade secured

Trust?  In a regime responsible for so much evil at home and intimidation abroad (wasn’t it only this week PRC fighters were intimidating free and democratic Taiwan)?  Surely not even the PM and MFAT take that line seriously?  But I guess “trust” was more about what the CCP rulers were supposed to feel towards the New Zealand government, the Prime Minister having abased herself, and joined the principle-less ranks of New Zealand politicians dealing with the PRC and eager for some deals and donations.

Then there was a little lesson to dear readers not to expect governments to speak up on the abuses of the PRC.  There is “a great deal of money at stake” don’t you know, and it isn’t the done thing to speak up.  Know your place peasants, we act for the business community.

The newspaper channels the convenient, but false, line about how much power the PRC wields over New Zealand, oblivious to the fact that countries make their own prosperity. Individual firms who over-expose themselves to thugs shouldn’t expect backing from the rest of the community, let alone from our government.  Unless, of course, our government –  once known for rhetoric about “kindness” – thinks the thugs are just fine.

And then the fawning editorial departs completely from reality, trotting out the weird line touted by David Parker a few months back that somehow we could be a conduit between “two competing superpowers” as if (a) either side would be interested, and (b) the United States and the PRC were really much the same, moral equivalents.

But it was the NZME stable of media that was really all in with Beijing today.  In no particular order I noted these pieces:

First, John Key was back, talking about how “critical” the PRC relationship was and that nothing should be allowed to get in the way.    The government is told to mind its words, and there was the bizarre assertion that

“China is the only country effectively where have unfettered access to all parts…If we treat that relationship properly we will continue to prosper off the back of that.”

Setting aside the more general claimed that New Zealand “prospers” –  when it actually languishes and has closed no productivity gaps in the last decade, or two, or three –  ask services exporters about “unfettered access to the PRC” or potential foreign investors about “technology transfers”.

He goes on

The Former Prime Minister said people don’t need to be concerned by China’s involvement in New Zealand.

I guess he would say that wouldn’t he? He works for companies trying to do business in China, he worked closely with former PLA intelligence official, Jian Yang, in his caucus, and seemed totally content with the fawning adulation his party president Peter Goodfellow has given to  Xi Jinping and the regime.   And all those party donations must have come very much in handy.

The article ends

He said our relationship with China needs to be treated really carefully.

Even John Key seems to know this is a subservient relationship he champions, about deals and donations, not about any natural friendship or commonality of values.  Values are simply of no account, it seems, in a Key view of the PRC.

And then there was the Wednesday column from NZME’s columnist Fran O’Sullivan, who travelled to Beijing, courtesy of Air New Zealand –  a big corporate very keen to keep on good terms with Beijing.  That travel support was disclosed, but not the fact that O’Sullivan –  along with Jian Yang and Raymond Huo and others –  sits on the Advisory Board of the (largely government-funded) propaganda outfit the New Zealand China Council, or that she is head of something called the China Business Summit.   It wasn’t particularly fawning, but it was framed around conveying PRC messages, and a sense that New Zealand governments owed something to Beijing.  Certainly no sense of Beijing as something of a rogue actor, at home and abroad.  More gushy was O’Sullivan’s piece in the big “China Business” supplement to today’s paper.   It isn’t so much that O’Sullivan’s views are necessarily wrong –  appeasement will always have its defenders, in 1938 and now – as the total absence of any alternative perspective in the nation’s largest paper.

The Herald was back to its fawning, if patronising to the PM, self in its editorial on the Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing.  The online title “PM makes a good start on China repair” casts her as some naughty schoolgirl who has now come to herself and made amends, as if there was ever anything to make amends for.   The Herald also did not like, one bit, the idea that the government might have dared to think that the PRC was not always a force for good, whether in the Pacific or the wider world.  As if it was channelling the People’s Daily –  then again, Beijing is reported to substantially influence the Herald’s Chinese language offshoot –  we read

In Beijing on Monday President Xi Jinping told the Prime Minister, “Our two sides must trust each other”. That is a message we must take to heart. Trust does not mean closing our eyes to possible risks but it means we should look for evidence of a threat rather than assume one is there.

No evidence of the PRC being an untrustworthy partner?  No, of course not.  Forget, shall we, small things like the GCSB joining other countries in calling out PRC state-sponsored intellectual property theft?  Or Beijing’s actions in pressuring Chinese language media here and in other western countries?  Or the intimidation of ethnic Chinese who speak up about the regime?  Let alone, the way Beijing operates around Taiwan, the South China Sea, or as regards it own people –  despite being party to all manner of international human rights covenants.  A trustworthy lot, the Herald reckons.  Yeah right.

They do get briefly descriptive

China is a monolithic state where ruling Communist Party controls every level of government and every sector of the economy. It is a nuclear-armed superpower and makes many of the world’s consumer goods.

I presume it was accidental that that first sentence was so all-encompassing that it must have included Huawei?

And then we get back to the cravenly creative.

Xi is more autocratic than any leader of China since Mao Tse Tung and is asserting China’s external interests more strongly. But he is doing so in proper ways, through diplomacy and development aid, notably the “belt and road” infrastructure schemes.

“Proper ways”!   None so blind as those who choose to look the other way.  If Taiwan or the South China Sea, or ethnic Chinese in New Zealand and other countries, don’t bother you, if state-sponsored intellectual property theft bothers you not at all, if widely-recognised attempts at economic coercion don’t bother you, then perhaps the Herald is quite right.  Most people will wonder if the text was just lifted from the People’s Daily.   And wasn’t “economic coercion” precisely what the China-panderers would have us worry about?

The first half of the very final paragraph might also have been lifted from a CCP propaganda sheet

China has been a superpower for a long time and it has not flexed its muscle much further than the South China Sea to which it has an historic claim.

“Historic claim” indeed –  a proposition for which there is very little evidence.  And might it be too much to have pointed readers to aggressive PRC activity in the East China Sea, its invasion of Vietnam in 1979, its confrontations with India –  as well as all that other interference and pressure touched on earlier.  Not the stuff friendly powers do.

But, channelling Beijing to the end, the Herald tells us that the PRC had “earned” trust (precisely how, they don’t attempt to explain) and that

Our Government now needs to show the Prime Minister’s one-day visit was not a one-day wonder.

Just stay flat on your face Prime Minister and the Herald and its business advertisers will be happy.

As I noted a bit earlier, there is a full 28 page China Business supplement to today’s paper.  It is pretty fawning from start (the front page leads with “Jacinda Ardern: Mission Accomplished”) to the end (the full page advert from Huawei).  There is the odd interesting piece in the supplement but not a word that might upset Beijing (or probably even MFAT and their front, the China Council).    The only bits I really wanted to highlights were two columns suggesting that it was simply illegitimate for New Zealand to express any serious unease about one of the most awful regimes on the planet.

There was a column by Todd McClay, National’s foreign affairs spokesman, who nailed his colours firmly to the mast last year talking of the Xinjiang “vocational training camps” (a million or more people in concentration and indoctrination camps) being no business of anyone’s but the PRC.   This time

Where we have differences, like the death penalty or South China Sea, we have learnt to raise them respectfully and diplomatically, directly between officials, leaders and ministers, and not via the media.   This is a respect that must be maintained.

Mr McClay and his party can choose to respect the butchers of Beijing if they choose, but don’t come asking for my vote while they do.  To him/them, it is all about deals and donations, and nothing else.  If he’d been the trade spokesman in December 1938 perhaps he’d have stressed how important it was to be respectful of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen and not let some local disturbance like Kristallnacht colour any sort of relationship.  It is sickening, and there is no evidence that the current Prime Minister is any different.   I thought this New Zealander studying matters Chinese at ANU put it well

(As it happens, I don’t think the PM should have been speaking out in Beijing,  She simply shouldn’t have been there, like some supplicant indifferent to the evil prepetrated daily by her hosts.)

And then there was the egregious but revealing column by a senior lawyer who is also involved in the China Council, repeating the myth that somehow the PRC is “critically important to our economic security” and offering a lecture concerned that New Zealand is “driving away” PRC investment in New Zealand –  and all that advisory work I suppose.

In business, we typically seek to avoid getting offside with a major customer.  If we have differences we tend to try to deal with those with great care with a view to preserving the business relationship beyond the immediate issue. Politicians may well disagree with me but I’d argue that fundamentally the approach should not be much different when we have a divergence of views or concerns with a major trading partner.

I guess if Ms Quinn wants to deal with thugs we probably shouldn’t prevent her from doing so.  But if you sup with the devil, or provide advisory services for the Mafia or its affiliates, don’t expect to be looked on favourably.  It is private firms that deal with Chinese companies, the New Zealand government – supposedly representing all New Zealanders, not just a few business interests – does not having a “trading partner”.  It is a government, not a business.  Private firms –  and the individuals involved –  must make their own calls about morality, but from reading article after article like this, it is almost as if they’ve chosen not to care.  Care or not, they make themselves complicit in what the regime does.   Private businesses, pursuing personal economic interests, shouldn’t be allowed to skew our foreign policy to their private ends.

It is all relentless.  Earlier today someone emailed me wondering how long it would be before the Herald was emulating papers like the Washington Post in publishing paid PRC propaganda inserts.   In the Herald’s case, why would the PRC waste money when they can get the one-sided propaganda for free?

[UPDATE: A reader points to People’s Daily material that the Herald is already running.]

But I guess it was a good day for the China Council, MFAT, and the Beehive –  unless, that is, readers actually stopped to think about the pap they are expected to swallow.

The Herald also made room today for a column from Labour MP, and chair of the Justice committee, in which he presents what can only be called a “creative reimagining” of the way in which he had led his Labour colleagues to block Anne-Marie Brady from appearing to discuss foreign interference, was backed in that stance by the Prime Minister’s office, until the blowback was just too great and he had to backdown and agree to open the inquiry to public submissions.  Amid the creativity, it was encouraging to read –  very belatedly – that Huo will recuse himself from involvement in the foreign interference bit of the inquiry (or does he just mean the Brady bits?) “to avoid any perceived conflict of interest”.

 

 

Deferring to Beijing

The Prime Minister is off to Beijing, to spend April Fools’ Day chatting with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, leaders of the brutal Chinese Communist Party regime.

It has seemed as if the carrot and the stick have both been at work in the PRC’s effort to keep the New Zealand government in line.   We had the failure of the Prime Minister to secure a visit Beijing last year.  Perhaps there really were some “scheduling difficulties” but no one really believes that was the whole story.  Only a few weeks ago the impeccably well-connected former New Zealand Ambassador to Beijing, John McKinnon, was telling us that a visit would happen but “not necessarily soon”.   And then suddenly 15 March happened, and suddenly a one day visit is scheduled at short notice.

In the meantime, we’d had the need to cancel the grand opening of the New Zealand-China Year of Tourism, at the PRC’s behest.  No one really supposes it was just “scheduling difficulties” –  even in a modestly sized bureaucracy if the key person does happen to be busy, you find someone else to turn up to significant events that matter to you and your friends.  But the bureaucratic and political “elites” scurried around, made clear their obeisance, and had the PM make coordinated statements with the CCP’s representative in New Zealand, and before long the opening of the year of tourism was back on again.  Lucky us, we were told, we were even getting a PRC government minister.

Who knows quite what really was going on.  Neither government is going to give a straight account.  But no one really doubts that the PRC was more than a little miffed at New Zealand and its government (the National Opposition was meanwhile doing its very best to demonstrate its cowed and subservient approach –  from Simon Bridges and Peter Goodfellow on down through Jian Yang).  Perhaps the New Zealand government hadn’t actually said or done much –  not a word of concern had ever been expressed by the Prime Minister –  but the PRC had previously had New Zealand pretty much where it wanted our government, and it wouldn’t do to let them back away from that silent subservience (on anything that concerns Beijing).   And their approach –  pretty mild in the scheme of things (no apparent deliberate hold-ups of coal deliveries, canola seed orders or whatever) –  seems to have been quite enough to scare the locals and bring the government more or less back into line for now.   The Huawei situation still hasn’t gone Beijing’s way – perhaps it eventually will, perhaps it won’t –  but probably even Beijing recognised that a heavy-handed approach over that specific issue might well enrage the natives and spark a political backlash (against them) at a time when they had other battles to fight (notably Canada).  And they’ve already demonstrated that even the mildest, deniable, expressions of unease can get official Wellington not just jumping, back asking how high.  Of one of the most odious and evil regimes on the planet (which has little substantial clout over New Zealand, except perhaps among a few businesses that have chosen to over-expose themselves to supping with the devil).  Much relief at the New Zealand China Council, in MFAT, among our universities…..and, no doubt, in Beijing.

And so the Prime Minister will head off to Beijing for lunch, tea, or whatever with Xi Jinping.   If anything of substance is on the agenda –  and the main purpose of the visit appears to be being seen in Beijing, so quite possibly nothing will –  we can confident that it won’t be things like:

  • Xinjiang,
  • the South China Sea,
  • the East China Sea,
  • Taiwan (PRC threats to),
  • the abduction, and continued detention, of two Canadians,
  • attempts to use economic coercion on Australia and Canada,
  • state-sponsored thefts of intellectual property,
  • the imprisonment, torture and intimidation of Christians,
  • the organ transplant business (highly dubious acquisition of organs),
  • other domestic repression (such as this, just this week).

And should there be any mention of Xinjiang (which seems unlikely, since she’ll say nothing critical here), it is perhaps more likely to be along the lines of “so tell me about those vocational training camps….”.

Most likely it will be an act of supplication on her part (“please Mr Xi, could we please have some more FTA…….please”), and a beneficient smile from the CCP rulers of Beijing. bestowing some sort of favour on one coming so compliantly.  More of this –  never ever saying anything that might upset Beijing – and perhaps we can be helpful again.

Why would an, apparently decent, person do this?  Does she (and one could ask the same of Simon Bridges) represent no values, no morality?  Is there any sense of national self-respect?

Which brings us nicely to how these parties operate at home.  A few weeks ago there was one day flurry of excitement when Labour MP Raymond Huo got his Labour colleagues on the Justice select committee to agree to block a request from Anne-Marie Brady to appear before the committee as part of its inquiry into possible foreign interference in our election.  This bit of the inquiry had been requested by the government after public submissions on the wider review of the 2017 election had already closed.    National’s Nick Smith, to his credit, took this public.  The Prime Minister’s office initially defended the effort to bar Brady, claiming that government departments could tell the committee all they needed to know (isn’t that a typical minister-captured-by-officials sort of line?).  And then the resistance collapsed and word came that Huo had been told to rethink.

And then the waters closed over the story and no more was heard (even before the 15 March murders).  None of our media seemed remotely interested in pursuing the story –  asking those other Labour MPs on the committee, for example, about what they’d been thinking when they blocked one of New Zealand’s experts on such matters (at least as regards the PRC), or asking the Prime Minister what her office had been doing backing Huo.  Let alone asking pointed questions of Huo, and insisting on answers.  For example, about he can possibly chair the committee, or have even involved himself in the specific decision on Brady, when he himself is the subject of serious concerns identified in Brady’s Magic Weapons paper (reported/excerpted in this post).  They might even have asked the National MPs –  who had done the decent thing in taking the issue public, and who perhaps even warned Huo that his stance would backfire –  why they still seem unbothered about Huo serving as chair on this particular issue.  How come they didn’t insist –  and aren’t now insisting – that he recuse himself?  It would be a quite standard application of any decent conflict of interest policy (even Shane Jones had declared his conflict of interest).

But, as it happens, the Huo-chaired committee has reopened submissions, from anyone. You have until 26 April to make a submission.  This is, quite clearly, what should have happened in the first place, once Andrew Little belatedly asked the committee to focus on foreign interference issues.  They’ve even approached Professor Brady and invited her to submit, and she says she will do so.

But it has hardly been done with good grace by the government members (all Labour in this case.  Here is Raymond Huo in the Stuff article earlier in the week on the reopening.

Huo said reopening submissions and updating the terms of reference had always been the preferred option of the committee.

“I should emphasise, Labour members of the committee did not ‘block’ Prof Brady or anyone from making a submission as the due process is to reopen the submission session, which would allow and encourage anyone who’s interested to make a submission,” he said.

The perception that Labour members, chaired by a Chinese-born MP, blocked her submission was so entrenched that nobody seemed to care about the due process, he said.

How does he even say this stuff with a straight face?  He was chair of the committee.  He was quite at liberty all along to have moved a motion to reopen submissions.  Instead, not ony did he not do that but he persuaded his Labour colleagues –  who should have known better – to go along with blocking the efforts of National members to allow even Professor Brady to submit. And all the time with a clear conflict of interest which it appears that, even now, he doesn’t acknowledge.  It would have been much better for him, at this late date, if he’d just kept quiet –  if he couldn’t bring himself to apologise –  than to open his mouth and further condemn himself.

Then again, it is not as if National MPs are calling on him out on it.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the reopened inquiry is (presumably deliberately) conveniently narrow in focus.  This is the notice from the Committee.

huo inquiry

I suppose people can submit on anything relevant to that broader question of “how New Zealand can protect its democracy from inappropriate foreign interference” (is there “appropriate” foreign interference –  perhaps the committee could offer its thoughts on that point in their eventual report?), but there is pretty clear steer on what members (chaired by Huo) actually want to hear about.

I’m no more keen than the next person on private emails of candidates or political parties being hacked, but to be honest I don’t see it as more or less of a concern than foreign powers hacking anyone New Zealander’s emails.  Official New Zealand government websites etc (as the PRC hack of the US government personnel database) might be more concerning.

As for the second item, I guess I don’t use Facebook, and we’ve all heard of these Russian bot-farms, but it looks a lot like a second-order issue in a New Zealand context (where Russian interests seem slight).  I’ve not heard any credible suggestion that the 2017 election here was influenced by such activity.

And, as for the third item, at present the law allows foreign entities to make (small) direct donations to political parties, and there are (apparently) few/no restrictions on such donations to local election campaigns.    There probably is a real issue there –  and it is one on which the National Party seems to have had a belated conversion –  but it is almost certainly less of an issue than legal donations made by New Zealand citizens and residents (individuals and companies) where there is reason to be concerned that even the ostensible donor has associations with, and interests to pursue with, a foreign power whose interests are not routinely aligned with those of New Zealanders.  But the committee shows no sign of being interested in pursuing that avenue.

I have had an exchange with someone encouraging me to submit, not as any sort of expert in the specific issues, but as a concerned New Zealander. I probably won’t do so, for two reasons.

The first involves the framing of the inquiry.  It is set up in a way that suggests that if there is an issue, around protecting our democracy (not just specific election results) from foreign interference, then (a) the responsibility rests abroad (bad foreign actors pursuing their interests, and innocent put-upon New Zealanders, and (b) that the answers are likely to lie with new laws or new powers for government agencies etc.

Evil regimes –  notably the CCP-controlled regime in Beijing –  will do what they will do.   But in my reading of the situation, very little about what is problematic in New Zealand is down to Beijing, it is about the choices –  quite explicit, and frequently renewed –  made by New Zealand MPs, ministers, and political parties.  Thus, as I’ve noted here before, I don’t (broadly) disagree with many of the policy recommendations Anne-Marie Brady has put forward.  And I do think the foreign donations law  – and donations law generally –  should be explicitly tightened so that only people enrolled to vote in New Zealand can donate (thus no corporate donations), and all donations above, say, $200 will be disclosed in near real-time.  Perhaps –  but I’m not convinced –  there is a place for some sort of register of people working for foreign interests.

But none of this gets near the real issue.  Things like:

  • party presidents of both main parties tripping off to Beijing to sing the praises of the regime and its leader (in public),
  • both main parties having MPs with strong United Front affiliations and widely seen as close to the PRC Embassy,
  • the way governments of both main parties stay almost totally silent on gross human rights abuses, and external threats, committed or posed by the PRC,
  • a National MP who formerly worked for the PRC military intelligence system, is/was a Communist Party member, and who acknowledges –  openly, to the Herald –  misrepresenting his past on his immigration/citizenship forms (and who is very much in the good graces of the PRC Embassy and its affiliate organisations in New Zealand),
  • the fact that no government agency has done anything about those acknowledged misrepresentations,
  • the fact that all political parties are now totally quiet on Jian Yang (none will call out his position as unacceptable), and that no political party seems bother about Huo (not even about him chairing the committee on foreign interference),
  • the fact that our two main parties got together to bestow a royal honour on someone with very strong PRC/CCP affiliations for what amounts to services to Beijing,
  • and the fact that the main parties (more so National in the past, although that may be changing now that Labour is in government) is totally unbothered about raising large amounts of donations from parts of the ethnic Chinese community that are closely aligned with PRC interests.

Decent parties wouldn’t do any of that.  New Zealand political parties do.  Beijing doesn’t make them make those choices.  None of those actions appears to be against the law (well, misrepresentation on the forms may well have been, but my focus is on the response of government and political parties).   Each of those things could be fixed now.  Today. No law changes needed, no inquiries needed, but the word would go out from party leaders –  who’d suddenly had an outbreak of decency –  that this sort of stuff just isn’t on.    But nothing happens.

Instead, we have a half-hearted inquiry, run by the very people – National and Labour Party MPs – who are the source of the problem. Perhaps individually they are decent people, but they are active participants in a corrupted system.  Probably both sides have an interest in appearing a bit open –  Labour is probably keen on playing the (US Democratic Party) card about social media or email hacking, and National seems willing to promote essentially cosmetic change around foreign donations.  But they show no sign of wanting to confront the real issue: themselves, and their party leaders (Ardern, Bridges, Haworth, Goodfellow).  The problem isn’t primarily Beijing – evil states will pursue their interests in whatever way they can –  but them.

And so anyone who submits to this inquiry, let alone appears, risks giving the inquiry a degree of legitimacy it doesn’t deserve.  It is a bit like the choices parties in troubled semi-democracies have to make about whether to participate or not to participate is the least-worst choice.  I won’t criticise anyone for appearing –  and someone of Professor Brady’s stature will likely attract considerable coverage, at “the hearing the chairman tried to ban” – but it isn’t choice people should make without careful thought.

After all, in addition to the bigger picture issues around the two main parties’ complicity (and it isn’t obvious the others are any better, just less important), the inquiry is still being chaired by Raymond Huo, the man with strong United Front connections, the man who adapted one of Xi Jinping’s quotes as the Labour slogan among the ethnic Chinese community, a man who (in a quote from Brady’s paper) apparently said

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.

You really couldn’t make it up.    But no wonder Xi Jinping is happy to host the Prime Minister.  She is the leader of Huo’s party, she controls select committee apppointments and chairmanships.  She, via Andrew Little, controlled the narrow scope of the inquiry.

And all for what?  Deals and flow of donations.  Most people would thought she was better than that.

For anyone who wants another angle  –  to Brady’s – on Huo, here is an article (scroll down) from 2017 by the commentator who goes by the pseudonym of Jichang Lulu.

It should be sufficiently clear that Huo is another United Frontling. There’s nothing surprising about his incorporation of Xi’s personality cult into electoral politics, or his silence regarding the revelations about Yang Jian’s background. Regardless of his views on non-China related issues (which do indeed differ from the National Party’s), Huo isn’t Yang’s opponent as far as the CCP agenda is concerned. For united-front purposes, Huo is simply an egg in another basket.

By focusing on two key individuals from both sides of New Zealand politics, I have attempted to show how successful united-front tactics have been in ensuring permanent control of the Chinese community politics by hedging against democratic power shifts. This is only one of its successes. I refer you to Brady’s work for an overview of the extent of its penetration in politics beyond the Chinese diaspora, business and media. Its pervasive character helps explain why the reaction to the Yang case has been so muted, suggesting a ‘code of silence’, with the most senior figures in the major parties essentially glossing over the problem.

And, more generally, he ends this way

The Brady report isn’t about finding spies. Reactions seem to be addressing a straw-man. Raymond Huo, the Xi-quoter, denied “insinuations against his character”, but it’s not clear that any have been made. If anything, Huo is consistent in his support for CCP policies and increased PRC influence in New Zealand. This is not a spy thriller, but a story about the institutions of a democratic country being coopted to serve the agenda of a much larger state ruled by an authoritarian regime. Most of the people involved may very well have acted legally at all times, and their support for certain policies isn’t necessarily an issue of moral ‘character’. The issue is whether the actions of many members of the NZ elite are a risk for the country’s security, independence and democratic system. The latter has obviously been damaged. …..

The intersection of each of ‘National’ and ‘Labour’ with ‘Chinese’ is firmly under the aegis of the United Front. Perfunctory reactions from top politicians are a sign that UF successes aren’t limited to that community. Such control over an advanced democracy is something the united-front pioneers in the 1920s and 1930s could hardly have predicted.

 

 

NZ Police help the PRC repression [UPDATE]

[As noted below, despite checking several websites, including that of the PRC Embassy, the first part of this post was clearly in error. Accordingly I have updated the title of the post.   The second, and more substantive, point stands.]

Like everyone else I guess, I’ve been following pretty closely the coverage of the Christchurch attacks.    And in the course of all that I’d noticed various statements of condolence from various overseas governments.  Some perhaps perfunctory (it is the sort of thing decent governments do), others genuinely shocked and heartfelt.  I found it quite moving that the UK government was flying flags at half-mast on Friday.   But there were also statements from the French government, the German government, the Canadian government, various arms of the US government from the President down, the Norwegian government, the EU, the Australian government, the Dutch government, and that was before we even got to various Muslim-majority countries, some of whom had citizens killed in the attacks.

But, it appears, nothing at all from the government of the People’s Republic of China.  It is not as if they are unaware of the attacks –  when I checked there was a story in the Global Times and, searching for the Dutch response, the story I found was actually on Xinhua.   As we are often told, New Zealand firms do more business with firms from the People’s Republic of China than with firms in any other country.  There are lots of PRC nationals living here.  And barely two years ago, the then government (in the form of Simon Bridges) signed up to some aspirational goal of a “fusion of civilisations” with the PRC (in the Belt and Road MOU).  There is lots of talk from both sides  – and their champions – about wanting relationships of “mutual respect”.  It is has never been clear to me why we would want to respect such an evil regime, but I’m not the Prime Minister, Opposition leader, or the New Zealand China Council.  They do.  They claim to believe the rhetoric, even though the evidence (globally) is that the PRC has no respect for any other country; just that some are useful to them at times.  They seem pretty clear-sighted about that; it is our leaders who are deluded and/or attempt to delude us.

Perhaps I’ve missed some message, but you can check the (typically very useful) PRC Embassy website for yourself.    I’d count on the China Council to have tweeted a link to any statement of condolences, but there is nothing there either.   There is simply nothing visible.  Perhaps (or perhaps not) there was some quiet behind the scenes statement to MFAT, but friends don’t hide messages of condolence in circumstances like these.

(UPDATE:  It appears I had missed a statement of condolence. Thanks to the reader who drew this to my attention.)

Of course, the PRC is open to a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” risk.  After all, as a matter of official government policy, the PRC authorities currently have interned, in concentration camp conditions, an estimated 1.5 million Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.    People have been physically abused in these camps, denied all rights, and some have even been killed.  There are credible reports of the PRC using imprisoned Uighurs as a source for the large-scale PRC organ transplant business.  But even with this record, it is still quite a lapse for the PRC to have offered no official condolences on the mass murder of 49 (Muslim) people in New Zealand.  One of those small things that helps bring home the sort of regime the PRC is, and they way view a country like New Zealand (hint: not at all as the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition would like us to believe).

(In fact, given that in Tarrant’s manifesto he is reported to have indicated [words amended to minimise risk re the Ardern govt’s censorship regime] that the country he most admires is the PRC –  ethnonationalism and all that I guess – you might have thought the PRC authorities would have been going out of their way to offer condolences.  Except that…….they didn’t.)

As I noted the other day, our Police –  certainly with the acquiesence of MFAT, and probably with that of the government –  has made itself party to aiding and abetting the dreadful abuses in Xinjiang (and elsewhere): their Assistant Commissioner is a visiting professor at the

People’s Public Security University of China – the first foreigner to hold such a role.

The university is where China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) trains the elite of China’s police. …..

The Ministry of Public Security does this dreadful stuff, and our Police are signing on to help (not, of course, consciously re that particular aspect, but it is all one organisation, and Police and MFAT know very well what they do –  not just in Xinjiang, but as instruments of oppression right across the country).

Perhaps now, once they have a few spare minutes, it might be time for Mike Bush, the Police Commissioner, to reconsider and tell his Assistant Commissioner to pull out of his visiting professor appointment, and stop assisting in the oppression of (inter alia) Muslims in Xinjiang.    If he lacks the decency, the imagination, the moral compass to do even that, then it is about time that the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs get the Minister of Police in a room and tell him to instruct the Commissioner to discontinue that relationship.

The New Zealand Police aiding and abetting the PRC (absence of) system of repression was appalling enough a few days ago.  With 49 dead Muslims in Christchurch –  and not a word from Beijing – it is well past time for our authorities to come to their senses, and completely dissociate ourselves, and our people, from the oppression in Xinjiang.

(Perhaps some belated PRC message will finally come, but it is now 2:15 on Saturday and there is still no sign of anything.  Times like these help confirm who your friends really are.)

Almost unbelievable

I was about to settle in for the rest of the afternoon writing a review article of an interesting (but obscure) book on aspects of US monetary policy, when a reader sent me a link to an astonishing article from the New Zealand Police website.   In it we read

As he prepares to bring down the curtain on eight years as our man in Beijing, Assistant Commissioner Hamish McCardle has received a rare honour from his hosts.

He has been appointed Visiting Professor at the People’s Public Security University of China – the first foreigner to hold such a role.

The university is where China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) trains the elite of China’s police. …..

The university and the Royal New Zealand Police College have had a bilateral training relationship since 2016. ……

He says the university appointment is an endorsement of the healthy state of the New Zealand-China bilateral relationship, and “underscores the idea that New Zealand has values and ideas worth considering in the Chinese context”.

It also aligns with the aims and values of the New Zealand-China Friendship Society and the pioneering work of New Zealander Rewi Alley who fostered a life-long friendship with China from the 1930s.

I don’t have any particular problem with Police having a person in our embassy in Beijing.  The day job had “a focus on disrupting the flow of drugs and precursors to New Zealand”.  That sounds fine.

But in accepting this “honour”, have the Police, MFAT, and their political masters lost sight completely any sort of moral compass?

The People’s Republic of China is a country where the Chief Justice himself proclaims that the rule of law is not something for China.  The Party rules.   It is a country where the Ministry for Public Security plays a key role in imprisioning a million or more people in Xinjiang.  I’m sure they do basic policing work as well –  Chinese have road accidents, and break-ins just as we do –  but this is the New Zealand government actively participating –  on a ongoing basis – in making the repressive apparatus of the PRC state better and more effective at doing its job.  A big part of that job is an instrument of systematic repression –  political, religious, or whatever.    Political loyalty –  to the CCP – is, not surprisingly, a key element in recruitment, and presumably even more so at those studying to be “the elite of China’s police”.

And what about that weird stuff in the final paragraph of the quoted excerpt?  The New Zealand-China Friendship Society has been around for decades and long-served as a Beijing front organisation in New Zealand, right through the horrors of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and on to their total silence today about repression in Xinjiang.    And Rewi Alley?   Well, he lived a fairly comfortable life in Beijing after the CCP took over, navigating this way through the thickets of changing CCP politics, reaching new lows when he published a jointly-authored book near the end of the Cultural Revolution defending the regime at its worst.  What possesses our Police to think these are “aims and values” to champion?   Why not, for example, the aims and values of the Tiananmen protestors, the Falun Gong movement, or the (underground) Catholic church?  But that wouldn’t fit the narrative I guess, of prostrating the New Zealand system before Beijing.

Presumably Mr McCardle is a perfectly decent chap, and probably won’t think of trying to import PRC methods to New Zealand policing on his return?  But did he not in the seven years he has been lecturing at this university already,  or does he not now, feel any qualms of conscience at all about abetting evil?  Because that is a big part of what the Ministry of Public Security, elite and otherwise, actually does.

And what of our subservient and deferential politicians?   Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs really feel comfortable with this “honour”?  ( I assume his officials at MFAT think it is just wonderful).  What about the Minister of Police?  Or the Prime Minister?

Or Simon Bridges or Todd McClay?  Or do all our MPs just think it is totally fine –  quite an honour in fact –  for the New Zealand government to be helping the PRC better repress its citizens, better repress freedom, free expression, free worship, free assembly or whatever?

It is a small thing in a way.  But a succession of individually small things build up to a narrative of a government system –  from the top down –  more interested in getting along, and supporting, this evil regime doing its work –  mercenaries, in effect, for trade deals and political donations –  than in representing the interests, values, and traditions of New Zealanders.   For Mike Bush and the New Zealand Police it seems that the values of the China Friendship Society and Rewi Alley count for more.

That’s shameful.

Kudos

I’ve been quite critical of the New Zealand China Council, which uses taxpayer money to champion an emollient, in effect subservient, relationship with the People’s Republic of China.  Doing so, of course, serves the business interests of the other corporate and academic members of the Council.   Whatever the intent, I’ve argued that their approach serves the interests of the PRC, one of the most awful regimes on the planet.

As part of that I’ve noted that it has been hard to find any examples of a case where the China Council has ever said anything critical of the PRC.  They will benignly note, in principle, that our systems differ, our interests differ, but will never articulate specific areas where they are critical of the PRC stance on anything, whether directly affecting New Zealand or otherwise.

And so it is only fair for me to draw attention to a welcome, if somewhat surprising, exception.

A couple of days ago a group of US foreign policy experts issued a joint statement calling for the immediate release by the PRC of Michael Kovrig.

You may recall that Kovrig is the Canadian former diplomat who was detained in China just before Christmas, apparently as “retaliation” over the detention and extradition proceeedings against the Huawei CFO in Canada.  No charges have been laid, and Kovrig is being held without access to a lawyer and with little consular access either.    It looks a lot like a state-sponsored abduction, presumably intended both to intimidate foreigners more generally, and perhaps as some sort of “bargaining chip”.

Late yesterday, I noticed that that tweet (above) had been retweeted by Stephen Jacobi, the Executive Director of the New Zealand China Council, with this comment added.

jacobi

Not only does he associate himself with the call by the US foreign policy experts, but he goes further, adding an unequivocal call also for the release of Michael Spavor, the second abducted Canadian.

Sure, this message isn’t being sent out on the China Council’s own Twitter account, but when you are the chief executive of a body, writing about areas closely related to your employer’s interests, no one is going perceive very much difference.   The Executive Director of the China Council, their high profile public spokesman, has made a public statement that can only be read as unequivocally critical of actions of the PRC.   There might be some price to pay –  perhaps a certain barely-detectible frostiness when next he encounters the PRC Consul-General? – but he did it anyway.

For a picture of what sort of detention Kovrig and Spavor are undergoing, you might want to read this article from someone who was subjected to the same treatment:

The law in China allows for these disappearances. Yes, as reported, Michael’s whereabouts are being kept secret. Yes, he will not be given access to a lawyer. But more so, even China’s prosecutor, who is supposed to monitor these secret detentions, will be denied the right to visit him. In a database that the NGO Safeguard Defenders keep, for which I’m the director, we have never come across a single case where the prosecutor has visited, even though it’s prescribed in law that they should.

Mr. Kovrig, and Mr. Spavor, and future American and European victims can, without any court order, be kept incommunicado, in solitary confinement, for six months. Actually, solitary confinement is only half true – he will have two guards sitting inside his cell 24/7, working in six-hour shifts. These guards, most of whom are civilian-dressed trainees for the Ministry of State Security, will not be allowed to speak to him, but will take notes on his every single movement. They will also stare him down as he uses the toilet, or when he is (rarely) allowed to shower.

Numerous foreign governments (including all our Five Eyes partners) have weighed in in support of Canada and the detained Canadians.  But not New Zealand.

I wrote about the contemptible silence of our government a couple of months ago

Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters head the New Zealand roll of shame on this issue, since they are the most senior figures in the current government.   But the shame isn’t just theirs.  There is no sign of anything from Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett (perhaps both rather keen on those donations Yikun Zhang was arranging?), or Todd (“vocational training centres in Xinjiang) McClay.   Nothing from the Green Party or ACT leaders.   Nothing from the Minister of Justice (rule of law and all that). And of course nothing from our PRC-born and educated MPs.  In a decent society, they’d be at the forefront of condemning the abuses in the land of their birth.  In our society, it seems to be just fine that they keep very very quiet –  a silence that suits Beijing –  and help ensure that the donations keep flowing.  Perhaps a journalist might consider asking Raymond Huo his opinion on the abduction of the Canadians.  He was, after all, formerly a lawyer with a leading local law firm, and now he chairs the Justice select committee in Parliament.  You’d hope the rule of law meant a lot to him.  But, like his bosses, deferrring to Beijing, and never ever upsetting the murderous rogue state, appears to matter more than the rule of law, or standing by our friends and allies when they (almost inadvertently in Canada’s case) incur the wrath of a tyrant.

By their utter silence, on this as on so many other PRC issues, our MPs and ministers dishonour this country and its people.   Cowering in a corner, deferring to Beijing, is simply unbecoming people who purport to lead a free and independent country.

But credit where it is due.  Well done Stephen Jacobi.  On this, an example to others.