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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Journalist sparks diplomatic incident at Beehive

Update: March 29, 2007

Why did the cadres become so nervous about this journo who writes about human rights and freedom? It's too easy to blame it on the Falun Gong. To find out what they are really trying to protect, scroll down to the Globe and Mail "The dragon and the kiwi go a-courting".

Radio New Zealand - March 27, 2007 - A journalist at the centre of a diplomatic incident at Parliament on Monday night claims Chinese officials put pressure on the Government.

Capital Chinese News reporter and photographer Nick Wang was asked to leave the Beehive by police and diplomatic protection officers.

He was there to cover a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen and China's visiting Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan.

Mr Wang says Chinese officials have accused him of being a member of the Falun Gong movement and criticised some of his past reporting.

Parliamentary press gallery chair Marie McNicholas,says she was pressured by a Chinese embassy official to have Mr Wang removed. She says she refused, but it appears the police acted instead.

A Government spokesperson says it was a misunderstanding; the office of the Speaker will be asking for a report.

Labour sacrifices free speech for trade deal
Scoop: “This incident is similar to the National Government’s appalling treatment of protesters during the 1999 visit of Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin, treatment which Labour condemned at the time.

What this new episode shows is that when it comes to compromising free speech to get a trade deal with the Chinese Government, Labour and National Governments are just as bad.

"Disturbingly, this also follows attempts by the Wellington City Council to exclude Falun Gong from public events in Wellington because the Chinese Embassy doesn’t like it.

“The Government must tell the Chinese Government that when they come to New Zealand they will be exposed to dissenting views because we value freedom of speech, trade deal or no trade deal."
The dragon and the kiwi go a-courting

GLOBE AND MAIL by FRANK CHING: 2006.06.22 - Pundits often focus on the relationship between China and America, Russia or Japan. Few write about China's other, seemingly unlikely, relationship with one of the world's smallest countries: New Zealand.

Yet that relationship is well worth watching. New Zealand was the first developed country to sign a bilateral agreement with China on its accession to the World Trade Organization; to recognize China's status as a market economy; to launch bilateral negotiations with China on a free-trade agreement.

When Premier Wen Jiabao visited Wellington in April, he expressed the hope the talks would conclude positively in a year or two, noting that relations between China and New Zealand can "serve as a model for the harmonious co-existence and reciprocal co-operation between countries with different political systems, different cultural traditions and different historical backgrounds." They are far from equals: China, with its population of 1.3 billion, is New Zealand's fourth-largest market, while New Zealand, with its four million people, is China's 52nd-largest trading partner.

So, what is New Zealand's attraction for China? According to Liu Quan, counsellor at the Chinese embassy, Beijing is opening up more.

"We are starting to deal with developed countries" and the relationship with New Zealand "is a kind of showcase." China has "a lot to learn from New Zealand." In a sense, New Zealand is China's window onto the developed world.

As for New Zealand, an FTA would be a big boon to its economy, since it would mean the elimination, or at least the substantial lowering, of Chinese tariffs. New Zealand removed most of its tariffs more than a decade ago.

The initiative for the FTA negotiations came from New Zealand, but China was happy to respond. "The world doesn't beat a path to our door," said Jim Sutton, New Zealand's associate minister for trade negotiations.

No doubt, China also appreciates New Zealand's independent foreign-policy stance. Wellington ended its alliance with the United States in the 1980s. New Zealand also did not support the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

China has negotiated FTAs with other countries, but never a comprehensive one with a developed economy. In the opening rounds, the New Zealand side repeatedly emphasized its desire for a "comprehensive" agreement, one that would include not only trade in goods but also services, investment and government procurement.

"We found we were getting pushed back on the word comprehensive," Mr. Sutton said, so he and his colleagues switched to the term "high quality." However, when Premier Wen visited, he pointedly used the term "comprehensive," signalling China's desire for a genuine FTA, not just one for window dressing purposes.

Still, Phil Goff, New Zealand's Minister of Trade, acknowledges that any agreement might have to be phased. "China," he said, "is not used to negotiating in a comprehensive way." According to Stuart Ferguson, chairman of the New Zealand China Trade Association, Chinese diplomats are keeping the New Zealand business community informed of the progress of negotiations. "I would meet with the Chinese consul general or commercial representative every other week," he said. This is transparency of a kind rarely found in China and much to be applauded.

Aside from economic relations, China and New Zealand are also developing cultural and educational relationships. China is setting up a Confucius Institute at the University of Auckland later this year. A primary purpose is to upgrade the teaching of the Chinese language in New Zealand. Confucius Institutes are a way of projecting Chinese soft power around the world.

And Peking University, the most prestigious educational institution in China, is scheduled to establish a New Zealand studies centre.

One of its first projects will be a translation of New Zealand literature into Chinese.

Beijing, it appears, is serious about ensuring that its excellent relations with New Zealand will be long-lasting as well.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.

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