Otago Daily Times

Re­buke for ‘eye­pok­ing’ comment

- DEREK CHENG Society · Oceania News · Politics · Asian Politics · Greater Auckland · Nanaia Mahuta · China · the Chinese government · Hong Kong · New Zealand · United States of America · United Kingdom · Canada · Australia · Legislative Council of Hong Kong · University of Waikato · Five Eyes · Waikato

AUCK­LAND: For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nanaia Mahuta has is­sued a mild re­buke to China for warn­ing the Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence al­liance of ‘‘their eyes be­ing poked and blinded’’.

The com­ments from China were made in re­sponse to a Five Eyes state­ment crit­i­cal of a Chi­nese govern­ment res­o­lu­tion, which led to the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of four pro­democracy law­mak­ers in Hong Kong.

The joint state­ment, signed by New Zealand, said the new rule ap­peared to be ‘‘part of a con­certed cam­paign to si­lence all crit­i­cal voices’’, and called it a breach of China’s com­mit­ment to grant Hong Kong a high de­gree of au­ton­omy and free­dom of speech.

For­eign min­istry spokesman Zhao Li­jian re­sponded by say­ing the Five Eyes part­ners — the US, UK, Canada, Aus­tralia and New Zealand — ‘‘should face up to the re­al­ity’’ that the for­mer Bri­tish colony has been re­turned to China.

‘‘No mat­ter if they have five eyes or 10 eyes, if they dare to harm China’s sovereignt­y, se­cu­rity and de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ests, they should be­ware of their eyes be­ing poked and blinded,’’ he said.

Yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Ms Mahuta re­sponded: ‘‘We are aware of the com­ments, and dis­agree with them.’’

She said New Zealand signed the Five Eyes state­ment — which New Zealand has pre­vi­ously re­frained from do­ing — be­cause ‘‘enough coun­tries were ex­press­ing con­cern’’.

New Zealand and China agreed ‘‘on many things’’, and she hoped China would un­der­stand New Zealand’s con­sis­tent po­si­tion on val­ues such as free­dom of speech, a free me­dia and democracy.

‘‘We are deeply con­cerned by re­cent de­vel­op­ments there, in­clud­ing China’s pass­ing of na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion for Hong Kong and re­cent ar­rests of, and dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of, elected Leg­isla­tive Council law­mak­ers,’’ Ms Mahuta said.

‘‘There’s no com­par­i­son be­tween the strength and the size of a coun­try like China and New Zealand, but New Zealand has an independen­t for­eign pol­icy.

‘‘We will con­tinue to up­hold and ad­vo­cate for the val­ues and prin­ci­ples that de­fine who we are, but more im­por­tantly what we seek to achieve as a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the global com­mu­nity.’’

Waikato Uni­ver­sity law pro­fes­sor Alexan­der Gille­spie said New Zealand faced a chal­lenge in diplo­matic po­si­tion­ing amid US­China ten­sions.

‘‘Walk­ing this fine line be­tween China. . . and our tra­di­tional al­lies and friends in the Five Eyes is go­ing to be the most dif­fi­cult task we’ve had in quite a long time in diplo­macy,’’ he told RNZ.

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Nanaia Mahuta

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