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Why did Labour MPs vote against allowing China expert Anne-Marie Brady to speak at justice select committee?

08/03/2019

An interesting new development in the NZ-China relationship saga this morning.

On Morning Report

Labour MPs have blocked leading China politics expert, Anne-Marie Brady, from speaking at Parliament about foreign interference in elections. Dr Brady wanted to talk to the justice select committee after Justice Minister Andrew Little asked it to look at the issue of foreign interference as part of its review of the 2017 election. National says Labour MPs voted against her submitting because they didn’t want more scrutiny about China.

Raymond Huo, a Labour List MP, is Chairman of the Justice Committee, he is on the advisory board of the NZ China Council. Raymond Huo appears as well to be associated with Yikun Zhang . Now Zhang is seen by various commentators to be well connected to the PRC regime and was a player in aspects of the Jami-Lee Ross saga. Furthermore, as noted by Michael Reddell,

NPR talked to Charles Finny, former diplomat, trade negotiator, and now lobbyist who declared last year that he knew Jian Yang (and Raymond Huo) and was always very careful what he said in front of either of them.

So the Chairman of the Justice Committee is someone who at least one well connected commentator is careful what he says in front of him.

There was this report as well in the NZ Herald today by Lucy Bennett.

Labour MPs on the justice select committee have voted against allowing China politics expert Anne-Marie Brady to make a submission on foreign interference in elections.

National MPs supported Brady, a professor at Canterbury University, giving her view on the issue which is a focus of the committee’s inquiry into the 2017 general election and 2016 local elections.

The eight-strong committee is evenly split between National and Labour MPs and today’s vote against means Brady cannot appear.

Nick Smith, National MP and a committee member said:

it was concerning that Labour blocked Brady from making a submission on the critical issue of protecting New Zealand from foreign interference in its democracy.

Later Smith said

 Labour MPs’ reasons for blocking Brady’s appearance were “disingenuous”.

“They said ‘we should only hear from government officials’ when Parliament needs to be able to hear from a wide range of expert views to be able to complete its inquiry successfully,” he said.

Now it is true that public submissions had closed in September, which Huo has advanced as a primary reason for declining Anne- Marie Brady’s request to appear, but as Lucy Bennett points out:

that was before the committee and Justice Minister Andrew Little decided that the issue of foreign interference was going to be the focus of the inquiry.

Indeed as Ms Bennett further notes:

Little wrote to Huo in October asking that the committee look at the resilience of the New Zealand electoral system against foreign interference risks, provide recommendations for improvement and reassure the public that they could vote in elections with confidence.

Indeed Little was unequivocal in his letter

“Foreign interference in democratic elections is, and will continue to be, a matter of pressing concern … It is vital that New Zealand’s electoral system is protected against illegitimate interference by foreign states,” Little wrote in his letter.

Yet despite this, the committee split on party lines such that a potential witness with highly relevant knowledge on a key issue before the committee is not to be heard from.

This raises a number of questions:-

  • why given Little’s specific concerns, highlighted in the letter, did the committee decline to hear Anne-Marie Brady
  • was Little’s letter merely window dressing and were the Labour members subsequently told to shutdown discussion
  • that line of thinking is given some credence in Adam’s mind, because of this government’s stance on not only China, but Russia as well
  • given Jacinda Ardern’s frequently espoused mantra of openness and transparency, why is this not being pursued here
  • were any other influences from any source brought to bear on committee members
  • is it fair to draw the inference from all of this that Ms Ardern’s claims of NZ’s independent foreign policy are in fact a figment of her imagination!

UPDATE:

  • based on Little’s letter, why was the whole issue of public submissions not re-opened
  • plus based on some additional research is there a personal animus on the part of Raymond Huo to Ms Brady -see below

Subsequent to first putting this post up, Adam was sure he had read more about Raymond Huo’s China connections and on going back to Ms Brady’s well regarded paper – Magic Weapons (pages 21 and 22) he read this:

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.124Huo works very closely with the PRC representatives in New Zealand.125In 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.”126Huo 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 Huoto 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’.”

 

 

 

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