The Dominion Post

Is China targeting NZ academic?

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Brady believes the break-ins are an attempt to silence her.

Last week’s burglary at the home of New Zealand academic Anne-Marie Brady, an expert on Chinese politics, has to be taken seriously. It is hard to escape the suspicion that she is being deliberate­ly intimidate­d by a foreign power.

If that is the case, it is completely unacceptab­le. New Zealanders need to be sure that they can say or write whatever they like in New Zealand without worrying about a backlash or consequenc­es in their home country at the hands of a foreign government.

Brady is an associate professor in political science at the University of Canterbury. She attracted internatio­nal attention with a paper published in September by the Washington-based Wilson Center think-tank, entitled Magic Weapons. It outlined how China asserts its influence overseas, using New Zealand as a case study.

The paper raised a number of concerns which Brady said she found disturbing. It questioned China’s donations to political parties, and the directorsh­ips at Chinese companies offered to former government ministers and their relatives.

It detailed how Chinese-owned dairy farms had been used for near-space balloon launches, which allegedly could help refine its missile technology.

Her work also outlined how China influences groups in other countries, and seeks to discourage people in the Chinese diaspora from opposing its policies. This applies not only to recent migrants from China but anyone who lives in Chinese-speaking communitie­s overseas. These strategies are being deployed not just here but all over the world.

Concerns about the Chinese Government’s influence in Australian society have caused Australia to begin the biggest overhaul of its intelligen­ce and espionage laws in decades, including a ban on foreign political donations.

Brady, a fluent Mandarin speaker, has produced critiques of China that would probably not be tolerated there. That, however, is her right as a New Zealand academic and writer.

She should be able to do so without fear of consequenc­e, while relying on support from her colleagues, employer, the Government and the rest of us.

It is deeply disturbing, therefore, that her office and home have been broken into. When her Christchur­ch house was burgled last Wednesday, computers and USB drives were taken but other items of value were not disturbed. She had previously received a warning that she would be attacked.

Obviously, we do not know who committed this burglary, nor if anyone else commission­ed or sanctioned it. It might have been an ordinary break-in or an act committed by local supporters of the Chinese Government who don’t like Brady’s work.

Brady believes the break-ins are an attempt to silence her.

Police must treat this criminal act seriously – on the face of it, the violation of her home looks like more than an everyday break-in and robbery. Other government agencies should also ensure the matter is investigat­ed and understood.

If it is found that the offence was committed directly or indirectly at the behest of another country’s government, the strongest diplomatic protest needs to be made.

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