Otago Daily Times

Rebuke for ‘eyepoking’ comment


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.

 ??  ?? Nanaia Mahuta
Nanaia Mahuta

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