Winston Peters, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minster and Foreign Minister, says it would be “naive” to think general citizens are not being spied upon by foreign powers.
- Winston Peters says Chinese nationals fear reach of Beijing when abroad
- The Five Eyes alliance has broadened intelligence-sharing activities to Germany and Japan to combat China
- A New Zealand professor was placed under police protection after her research was stolen
In an interview with New Zealand network Radio Live, Mr Peters — who previously served as Helen Clarke’s foreign minister from 2005-2008 — said spying had been “going on for decades” from a variety of powers.
“At the moment the issue is that the problem is from whence it’s happening, but this isn’t limited to just one country,” he said.
Mr Peters also admitted that some of the concerns stemmed from racism against Chinese nationals which “went back 100 years”, but warned of Beijing’s increased ability to punish nationals abroad.
“The reason why the Chinese don’t protest is that becasue they fear the reach from their homeland should they do this — and you see this all around the Western world,” he said.
New Zealand waking up to China’s Pacific push
This latest intervention comes at a time when New Zealand faces up against an increasingly confident China seeking to exert influence across the Pacific.
In October, the Five Eyes alliance — drawing together the intelligence services of the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia — broadened its intelligence-sharing to include Germany and Japan to counter-balance Chinese and Russian activity.
In New Zealand, an overt act of espionage was revealed in September of 2017, when opposition National MP Dr Jian Yang confessed to training Chinese spies in English.
It was revealed the MP had studied at the People’s Liberation Army-Air Force Engineering College, but had also had spent time in a language department run by “Third Department”, the organisation that runs China’s spying activities.
In a statement to media he said, “If you define those cadets as spies then I was teaching spies, yes”.
China politics expert had car tampered with
In recent months, a flashpoint in the Chinese interference debate arrived when Anne-Marie Brady, a University of Canterbury specialist in Chinese politics, sought police protection after her house and office were raided in September.
The assailants stole three laptops and phones which held the professor’s work on Chinese foreign policy and its desire to influence sovereign governments including that of New Zealand.
It was later revealed that New Zealand’s Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) swept her home and office for listening devices.
“China has been interfering in the politics of New Zealand as in other countries, and our Chinese community have either had their cultural groups co-opted or separate groups have been set up to nominally represent their community, while political parties have been targeted,” Professor Brady told ABC Radio National’s PM.
“Debate about those particular issues is underway, and now, Winston Peters is adding into that.”
Professor Brady has raised ire among Chinese Communist Party sympathisers at home and abroad.
She has been an author of a paper looking into Chinese interference into other countries, and has also provided policy advice to the New Zealand government on Chinese interference.
Professor Brady said that she received a letter detailing what the Chinese consulate was trying to do to “supress the natural concerns” of the Chinese-New Zealander community, and that Professor Brady was “next for attack” without getting into specifics.
About two weeks ago she reported to New Zealand police that her car was tampered with, saying people had broken into her garage to let her two front tyres down to dangerous levels that would “collapse” in high speed or sudden braking.
New Zealand police and the international policing agency, Interpol, are currently investigating Professor Brady’s reports she remains under police protection.