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Government rebukes China on reports of Chinese officials pressuring AUT to scrap a Tiananmen Square commemoration and condemning Hong Kong democracy protestors at Auckland University

Government rebukes China on reports of Chinese officials pressuring AUT to scrap a Tiananmen Square commemoration and condemning Hong Kong democracy protestors at Auckland University
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the Government has raised its concerns with China over freedom of speech being impeded at New Zealand universities.

Having previously been quiet on the matter, she has revealed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) on Monday reiterated to Chinese officials New Zealand’s “expectations” around upholding freedom of expression.  

MFAT specifically raised its concerns over China’s Consul-General in Auckland last week issuing a statement condemning Hong Kong democracy protests at Auckland University and praising students who confronted protesters for their "spontaneous patriotism".

MFAT’s move also followed Newsroom’s Laura Walters last week revealing Auckland University of Technology (AUT) cancelled a Tiananmen Square anniversary commemoration event on the Chinese Consul General in Auckland’s request.

Ardern on Tuesday said freedom of speech was something New Zealand guarded.  

“That is part of who we are. And I think it is important that for those who may take a different view, we are very clear about our expectations,” she said, also noting how this was something enshrined in law.

MFAT wouldn’t elaborate on the Prime Minister’s comments. Nor would it provide more information on the discussions had between officials.

When asked at a post-Cabinet press conference on Monday about the incidents at Auckland universities, Ardern didn’t mention MFAT’s correspondence.

As previously reported by, she was at pains not to specifically single out, let alone rebuke, China.

“Of course, for us as a general principle, academic freedom is very important. And my expectation would be that individual institutions will continue to uphold that, and make decisions without interference from foreign entities or from government,” Ardern said on Monday.

“I’ll bring this issue back generally to foreign interference... I won’t speak to any specific examples, because I haven’t had in recent times placed in front of me. I have heard accusations raised in the past by the likes of, for instance, Professor Anne Marie Brady.

“But more generally around issues of interference, of course, we have not taken a country-specific approach. We should be live to this issue generally.

“And that should include in our electoral system... That’s an area where we of course keep an ongoing brief on whether or not our legislative framework’s fit for purpose.”

Quizzed on the matter on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters likewise spoke in general terms.

But just as he left the media scrum, he said: “Running around and shouting from the rooftops isn’t our style. We tell them quietly.”

Before making this comment, Peters said: “Since 1854, anyone dealing with this country… knows that we stand for freedom of speech and we expect people to respect that - no matter where they come from.”

Asked whether he would be making this explicit to the Chinese Government, he again remained cautious: "I made it very explicit to everybody who’s dealing with New Zealand, that freedom of speech is what we stand for and we expect them to respect that…

“No matter where you come from, whoever you are, no matter how big or small you - we expect you to respect that.”

ACT leader David Seymour on Monday raised his concerns in a letter to the Chinese Consul-General. 

He pointed out how the incident at AUT followed reported attempts by the Consulate General to last year stop a documentary critical of the Confucius Institute from being aired at universities.

Seymour also said it was “deeply concerning” the Consulate General publicly praised the students who “assaulted” a peaceful protestor.

“The Consulate General’s comments encouraged disruptive and violent behaviour which undermines authorities upholding the rule of law here in New Zealand, and therefore our internal affairs,” he said.

“I am interested to learn why the Consulate appears to be so blasé about interfering in New Zealand’s internal affairs. I wonder if this results from a misunderstanding of diplomatic conventions, or a belief that the PRC is not required to respect those conventions in New Zealand for some reason?”

Emails released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act show AUT Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack responded to the Chinese Consul General’s concerns over the Tiananmen Square commemoration event by saying it wasn’t a university event, and a staff member had booked a building on campus through the incorrect process.

Yet he added: “Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity to re-affirm that not only in the University, where academic freedom is taken very seriously, but also in New Zealand at large, freedom of speech and assembly are held as core democratic principles and fundamental values of our society.”

As for the incident at Auckland University, a video uploaded to You Tube shows a stand-off between students over Hong Kong ending with someone being shoved.

Australian universities are grappling with similar issues.

China remains New Zealand’s largest export market. Negotiations to upgrade the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement are underway.

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I avoid buying Chinese products if at all possible.

Its like they are Darth Vader and we are Hansolo

#FreeTibet #FreeHongKong #FreeTaiwan #standuptobullies


First off I don't like the headline. National were in bed with the Chinese government. Labour have been trying to slowly dig us out of the hole.

Re avoiding Chinese made products. Absolutely don't buy. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realise that the more you buy the more power and control the CCP will gather and that's no good for anyone.

# nomorelandsalestoChinesefirms


I see. You blame China as a "whole." Do you boycott American goods because of the Vietnam War?


Plenty of people DID back in the day.
People did the same in the wake of the Rainbow Warrior bombing and ongoing French testing in the Pacific. But of course now we drink French wine.
I guess a big question is where do you draw the line?
But for me, China is committing blatant human rights abuses on a large scale.
Is the USA? That's debatable. Maybe they are, in less overt ways?
Sorry, bit of a ramble.
Few things in life are truly black and white.

I ant even remember the last time I bought an american made product

Wether you use your computer or your phone or tablet to write your posts, you are using both, Chinese and American products (componenets)

Oooh! I see what you did there, nice misdirection.

Psst. This is a bit awkward, but...the Vietnam War finished a while back.

However, yes...When the USA has attempted to interfere in NZ people have gotten rightfully angry. E.g. see the silly militarised helicopter raid over Coatesville to net an enabler of copyright violation, and the NZ Customs "brownie points" crossing of lines of separation. And with Peter Thiel's buying of NZ citizenship. People don't like sovereignty being trodden on by foreign powers and they don't like NZ politicians to bend over and take it.

Now, back to the topic at hand?

As an aside, on the topic of Vietnam, perhaps it makes twice the sense for Americans to stop buying from China and buy more from Vietnam, then? Make up for past negative impacts at the same time.

ZS has cancelled his coffee shout

Weak. But par for the course for the west. I was passing through the uni today as David Seymour was addressing a crowd on the recent confrontation on campus.

Hi Jenée

Keen that you are not seen as a Patsy reporter for this type of journalism.. were you at interest when the disastrous beingmate deal was signed by Theo (in the presence of Mr Key) and what was the reporting tone from the publisher at the time? Have you been involved in the Westgate farms reporting?


China is the country equivalent of the nouveau riche, recently come into power and flaunting it round childishly. And ultimately all it does is hasten the creation of resentment and coordinated pushback by everyone else.

Tiananmen is spelled wrong in the title.

Gee whizz. I guess that lets your hero off the hook


AUT could also have said, "No, sod off".

Publicly announce "We've been asked to not allow this. But NZ is a free country, so we allow it and we make public this request."

Even better


Maybe the Chinese Security Agent who is currently a member of the National Party caucus could offer us an insight...or two?

He appears to be remarkably silent. As does his friend in the Labour party.


Visiting the Consul site is a scary insight into Chinese culture. Not only do they disrespect us and our freedom they despise it.

And that kind of encapsulated what so many of us have been warning of since Shanghai Pengxin paid ridiculous money for the crummy Crafar Farms, but that was okay, we were just xenophobes

In other news - National has blocked a motion to give the Justice Committee the power to write donation law changes into the Electoral Act. .....I wonder why? Any Nat people on site that can enlighten us all??

I imagine they enjoy the donations from Brethren Churches a little too much...

Miss Ardern is finding out that politics is a lot harder than having good intentions...

Or being a President of the International Union of Socialist Youf. Dissonance all the way down....

Being matey in order to get orders is political and democratic hypocrisy. This is v common in the world of course. But globalisation and its discontents are coming to a diminishing returns point. When CCP does intervene with force n HK then the nicey-ness of Chinese diplomacy is going to look even more false than ever. The world is about to enter Balkanisation by trade and NZ is going to have a hard job "diversifying" away from its dependence.


Chinese fingers spreading out across the Pacific.
The Communist Party of China appears highly paranoid and appears vulnerable, and rightly so. The world is waking up.
President Xi has rewritten the party rules and ended leadership term limits. There is less democracy in China today than 40 years ago.
The communists need to roll over or reform.

ACT leader David Seymour well done.

Sadly this has been become typical of this government in particular Labour.

When asked tough questions they look to deflect. They have been found out on the abuse revelations and then Andrew Little found wanting on the abortion referendum... so, they try and throw the media off the scent and say something about China.

What is concerning is reporters buy this.

If I was at the press conference I would have asked why bring this up now? Don't you have more pressing issues like Labour members quitting in light of the abuse accusations? Don't you have more pressing issues like your junior coalition partner pushing for a referendum without your knowledge?

Sorry... just a rubbish political tactic of bait and switch cos she doesn't want to answer the hard questions.

realpolitik, just glad they have said something, there needs to be pushback against Chinese hegemonic ambition.

Andy, my guess would be they were asked about China rather than randomly blathering off on a tangent about China. Ardern's weekly post cabinet press conference involves journalists asking questions on a range of topics. Cabinet ministers are also questioned by journalists more informerly around parliament during the week. The China issue has been a major one over the past week or two.

What worries me with the abortion law changes, the right for anti abortion people to PROTEST outside abortion clinics on Public land, this is an attack on freedom of speech and the right to protest, this could be used in other situations and open to abuse.
Labour has no right to tell China about freedom of speech, when they themselves are bringing this legislation to prevent freedom of speech in certain areas,

People criticise our universities for being too soft. Toughening up is easy to say but hard to do. I haven't checked AUT's stats yet. But UOA's showed they had nearly 3900 Chinese international students last year. Tho UOA didn't disclose their revenue on international students' tuitions, assuming those students paid $25k pp (which is a very conservative figure, things like science, engineering and postgraduate would cost way more), then you are looking at nearly $100mil revenue. Now imagining if you are the VC... To me one real problem is our universities failed to teach those young people the values and perspectives they need to hold as individuals.

That's one problem with running everything including universities as a business.

Others include: grade inflation, degree inflation, inappropriate pressure to ignore cheating and pass students who should not be passed.

Is it the job of universities to teach young people values?

In this particular case, I'd say yes. If NZ wants to counter CCP's influence, it can be the most practical way.

Ooops I taught my children to reject the values of your typical University professor.

Scientific method, questioning what we're told, free speech etc...

Good on Ardern. And David Seymour.
Key's idea to take off the Union Jake from the flag??

Is there anybody out there who didn't think that the handing back of Hong Kong to China would end in problems?.
China is a different China under the current leader.
Plenty of problems ahead for the citizens of HK and even maybe Taiwan.
No country around would be willing to take on China militarily.

Hong Kong was forced on to China by the opium trade, military force, this has never being forgotten by China, after 50 years HK will be fully under their control, if these protests continue, it could come sooner, China will not let this go on too long because it could start in other Chinese cities, China will never let this happen. The HK people must not expect any military help from the US or the UK or anywhere. Their best way is to make a deal with China

Taiwan is ok because of United States protection, if china tries anything against Taiwan, the US fleet will be there and US army, China will not take the risk

Many Cantonese dislike the Mainland Chinese.
People in the 1970s said the USSR economy would surpass the USA. It didn't.
I think Xi and the communist party is more vulnerable than most think.
Don't underestimate the resilience of the American economy and military.

Ultimately, I think our PM is worried that we might see similar intimidation tack ticks happen here as they did in Sydney recently. Nine News Australia: Three Chinese warships make surprise entrance into Sydney.

If Ardern claims that freedom of speech is "enshrined" in NZ law she is mistaken. In NZ the right to freedom of speech is not explicitly protected by common law.

Careful now Zachary you'll bring down Auckland's house prices with that kind of statement. Those who originally decided to emigrate to NZ to settle in a 'free country with freedom of speech' trying to escape an oppressive government and unhealthy environment, they may decide to move to Canada instead.

Btw I think you'll find it was Peters who said: “Since 1854, anyone dealing with this country… knows that we stand for freedom of speech and we expect people to respect that - no matter where they come from.”

CJ099, why are you bringing up Winston's glib statement when I am discussing Ardern's understanding of the law regarding freedom of speech? Also I would say Canada has less freedom of speech than NZ.

There exists no NZ common law that protects freedom of speech. There perhaps shouldn't be as the control of speech is more a reflection of cultural mores or customs. We shouldn't need laws for all aspects of our lives. In a very exclusive environment, say a 1920's gentleman's country club, freedom of speech about certain subjects would be much wider. In a very diverse environment, say today's universities or workplaces, freedom of speech is rather more restricted on some subjects but less restricted on other subjects that would once have been considered decadent.

In practice more diversity and inclusivity means less over all freedom of speech. As an example in the old days it was quite common to have robust conversations about religion, specifically Christianity. Today we wouldn't dare openly discuss aspects of the new religions that have been imported with recent immigrants.

Today we can discuss anything as long as it is inclusive. Anything that is exclusive is generally verboten. It didn't used to be like this therefore the scope of freedom of speech has changed. It's freer in some areas and more restricted in others. What you are free to discuss is an expression of culture and our culture is changing rapidly.

Freedom of expression is often mentioned in bills of rights. These bills are often universal in nature and part of the globalist agenda to undermine national sovereignty. They are rather impossible things that want to guarantee freedom of expression while also protecting people from being offended.

Quite a rant there Zachary. Firstly; I was simply pointing out that you had wrongly stated that Arden claimed that 'freedom of speech is "enshrined" in NZ law'. Which hasn't been the case, if anything she's been very diplomatic about it. It was more Peters who had taken more of a stand for NZ freedom of speech. Secondly; Canada does have a "Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms" under its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Obviously they do have those within reasonable limits. By the way; their Students in British Columbia, have been allowed to “Lennon Wall” of messages supporting Hong Kong protesters on University Student Society.
Your welcome to kowtow as much as you like but you will be bring down your precious house prices in the process, making NZ a much less attractive option to emigrate to (Lower immigration = fall in property value).

I didn't think of it as a rant. More of an insightful commentary on free speech. We don't have more or less free speech just different free speech. Not kowtowing just seeking the truth and battling fake news concerning Hong Kong.

However I do wish you could sharpen up your act and bother to read the article before commenting CJ099. It's just very disappointing or are you doing this on purpose? The article clearly states:

Ardern on Tuesday said freedom of speech was something New Zealand guarded.

“That is part of who we are. And I think it is important that for those who may take a different view, we are very clear about our expectations,” she said, also noting how this was something enshrined in law.

Yawn, that's still open for interpretation. Though glad I was able to clarify about the Canadian aspect for you. See they do have 'freedom of speech' as part of their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. :)

Why can't you just write, sorry ZS, I was totally wrong about the Ardern/Peters thing?

China is literally a facist nation (seriously, before dismissing this, Google the definition of Fascism).

We should be doing absolutely everything we can as a nation to limit China's influence in NZ.

Google fascism and you'll get a dozen and one definitions, you might have to look at a few to find the one you want. Suffice it to say, fascism's roots are in racism and can be found anywhere along the left to right continuum. It is very authoritarian however.

Definition of Fascism has become hopelessly muddled by modern left trying to distance themselves from it. Fascism's roots are in extreme nationalism and authoritarian economic and social control of socialist/collectivist nature (excepting the nationalism very left wing), not racism, though that became a feature later in Nazi Germany, but WW2 era fascists happily allied with other nations and races, (Nazis allied variously with USSR, Iraq, Thailand, Finland, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea as part of Italian empire, Japan).

I have seen indeed that now many right-leaning sites are trying to cast fascism as a left-wing movement. The right also trying to distance themselves from a right-wing political system. Seems to be perhaps a fad or perhaps actually seeking to redefine things. While there was competition and some wanted to push fascism into socialist directions, they didn't win out, but rather lost to the more elitist, nationalist (but aligned with private enterprise) kind of model.

Hitler was plainly quite anti socialism himself:

“Your socialism is Marxism pure and simple. You see, the great mass of workers only wants bread and circuses. Ideas are not accessible to them and we cannot hope to win them over. We attach ourselves to the fringe, the race of lords, which did not grow through a miserabilist doctrine and knows by the virtue of its own character that it is called to rule, and rule without weakness over the masses of beings.”

RickStrauss, the preceding two sentences to the above quote states, "Unlike people such as the wealthy Count Reventlow, I am socialist. I started as a simple worker, and today still, I do not allow my chauffeur to receive another meal than me". So it doesn't seem at all plain that he was anti-socialist.

Fair enough, if it's in isolation. However, 1) there were plenty of other quotes in the article along the same lines, as Hitler pushed against the wishes of those who wanted to enact more socialist policies, 2) much like Christianity, Hitler seemed to use it when it suited to appeal to the populace but otherwise have significantly less fondness for or dedication to it (as in its use in this context to speak to validity to speak to the topic, rather than "champagne socialists"), and 3) seemed to embrace the private enterprise model not social ownership of the means of production.

Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei Nazis National Socialist Workers Party were foundationally socialists. It's right there in the name. The Nationalist bent is used as justification to move their classification all the way from far left to far right, but are far closer in practice (and in 30's made common cause with) the stalinist USSR with their similar hegemonic ambitions and internal genocidal excesses against various groups like the ukranians, (Holodomor killed ~10 million).

Beware of the China stealth diplomacy.
Stop the buy of China products. We soon see how mainland C will crush HK is the calm before the storm.

China is one of NZs main customer for our goods, NO government would risk this, they will not put NZs economy at risk and have a big recession.

About time the Govt spoke up - it took them too long to do so. And talking about Chinese interference: It is disturbing - to me at least - that Chinese MP who lied about this links to Chinese military intelligence is allowed to stay as an MP. To think he used to sit on the Foreign Affairs and Defense select committee!

Its clear the dance that the govt must do when dealing with China. I wonder if comes a time when china teams up with Russia, employs nasty tactics in Hong Kong and has a shocking human rights record,we need to revue our relationship. Yes there is a cost.

Yes there will a COST, a big cost , why should New Zealanders support non New Zealanders who would not do the same for us, China could easily stop trade with us as an example to frighten Australia. Ardern must be very careful that NZ is not used

Ardern -diplomatic, or weak???