A prominent academic is calling for greater protection for Chinese New Zealanders in light of a recent security report.
Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson
A Security Intelligence Service (SIS) report has revealed a New Zealand citizen has been gathering information for a foreign intelligence agency on people in New Zealand the foreign state sees as dissidents.
The minister in charge of New Zealand’s spy agencies, Andrew Little, yesterday said the intelligence agencies had long acknowledged the reality of the threat of foreign interference in New Zealand.
“The NZSIS briefed the Justice and Electoral Select Committee about it during that committee’s inquiry into the 2017 general election,” Little said.
“I am satisfied the agencies are equipped to respond effectively to the threat and are doing so.
“I do not see the need for a law change in this respect.”
While the service has not revealed the name of the foreign state, Professor Anne-Marie Brady said it was likely to be China.
She told Morning Report that SIS had also identified an individual who was targeting the “political elite” in New Zealand.
“I have done in-depth research on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) foreign interference activity and those two case studies match it very closely.”
She said the government for the last four years, particularly since 2018, had been working very hard to deal with the problem of foreign interference in New Zealand.
“For us in New Zealand, foreign interference almost always refers to the foreign interference activity of the Chinese Communist Party.
“China, the CCP government is the main source of foreign interference” and also the “main state actor in terms of cyber attacks” on New Zealand, she said.
Brady said the scale of spying was escalating and had an impact on the country’s national security.
She had documented the instances and it was also included in her parliamentary submissions over the past two years.
“I have been told of severe harassment of one individual who the Chinese government believed had information that they were interested in. The person did not think of themselves as dissident but they received daily ongoing harassment from a proxy group of the CCP.”
She said harassment including “hazing” – psychological pressure – and “pushing and shoving at events” thereby contributed to creating a climate of fear.
“Our government needs to reassure this community because they need their help to address the problem. Our Uyghur community have been speaking up about how unsafe they feel in New Zealand.”
People had lost their jobs because of force from Chinese-government connected individuals, she said.
“The approach that the CCP would follow is to single out a few individuals in order to intimidate the majority. It’s not that our 247,000-strong New Zealand Chinese population are all dissidents.
“But because the CCP is very worried about political change in China, they have used the Chinese diaspora – 64 million of them around the world – as a potential threat, so they seek to control their community groups and media organisations.”