Political and cultural freedom in New Zealand has reached its most vulnerable point in history

Political and cultural freedom in New Zealand has reached its most vulnerable point in history

In the past week writ large across the world, we have seen how millions of people have protested extradition laws in Hong Kong. This would allow Hong Kong authorities to extradite Hong Kong residents to China for crimes they have committed instead of being tried in Hong Kong.

Political and cultural freedom in New Zealand has reached its most vulnerable point in history
New Zealand enjoys a free trade agreement with China and cultural, demographic and historical connections – but at what cost?

Why the uproar? Because China has an absolutely atrocious human rights record of torturing and murdering hundreds of thousands to millions of people, sending them to forced labour camps and also harvesting prisoners’ organs for a black market trade in organ transplants. On a more visible scale they oppress all forms of religious worship in China. The western media do cover these stories intermittently. The PRC recently black-listed Wikipedia from their version of the sanitised internet and they are ever-vigilant of their citizens on state-controlled WeChat.

Human Harvest: a documentary about organ harvesting in China

As often happens, ripples of the protests in Hong Kong reverberated across the Pacific. The pageantry of international politics between New Zealand and China was played out in miniature in Aotearoa.  

In 2010, the New Zealand government’s (then) Minister for Justice Amy Adams gave the green light several times to extraditing a New Zealander/Chinese man (Kyung Yup Kim accused of murder in Shanghai in 2009) back to China.

The Court of Appeal in New Zealand then quashed the request from the National government three times. It ruled that the Minister for Justice Amy Adams had too readily and easily accepted the PRC’s request to extradite the accused man.

Political and cultural freedom in New Zealand has reached its most vulnerable point in history
New Zealand enjoys a free trade agreement with China and cultural, demographic and historical connections – but at what cost?

The Minister of Justice is asked to return Mr Kim to a country that has a criminal justice system very different to our own, that has not committed to relevant international instruments in the way or to the extent that New Zealand has – a country in which, it is reliably reported, torture remains widespread … New Zealand has obligations under international law to refuse to return a person to a jurisdiction in which they will be substantial risk of torture, or they will not receive a fair trial. Otago Daily Times.

Again this is a win for New Zealand regarding this one case, but how long can New Zealand hold out with its legal system, when its cultural and economic prosperity is so intricately linked with China?  

A clear trend is happening in the Pacific region, of China strong-arming smaller independent nation-states (Taiwan and Hong Kong) along with larger Western nations like Australia and New Zealand.

Why then is all of this overt power play not gaining any media traction in New Zealand? The two major commercial news sources in New Zealand – Stuff and New Zealand Herald are too preoccupied with stories about fluffy vacuous nonsense about Megan Markle’s body language and reality TV shows. Critical stories about issues that will affect every New Zealander and this country’s future get buried among absolute trash.  

Is there a reason for this white-washing of real issues in the New Zealand media? A darker perspective would posit that the media are attempting to keep people ignorant and placid in the face of international tensions and a looming war that could be ignited at any moment between any of the international players of Iran, US, China, Russia and how this would play out for the average person living in New Zealand.

A kinder perspective of the New Zealand media would involve trotting out a few mediocre retorts: ‘We are simply giving the audience what they want’ or ‘It’s the only way to maintain profitability for our struggling media outlet in the age of the internet’. Yawn. A complete cop-out!

The New Zealand’s media are (as they have always been) reflecting a back to us a lotus eater’s paradise, devoid of any real substance and depth. A place where we can all slip off into a narcotic-induced sleep of blissful ignorance about what is going on with our neighbours and also the changing political and cultural landscape within New Zealand.  

According to the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT). The government have a China Capable Public Sector program:

The China Capable Public Sector (CCPS) programme is a whole-of-government initiative to develop a China savvy public sector with China awareness, knowledge, experience, and leadership both internationally and domestically to engage effectively with China. This exciting initiative is led by MFAT in strong partnership with agency leaders across the public sector.  MFAT

From this we can extrapolate who pulls the strings both at home and abroad.

Given China’s clearly non-democratic justice and legal system, opaque treatment of prisoners and complete lack of an independent media, their online white-washing of the Tiananmen Square massacre –this level of influence isn’t something New Zealand should boast about.

9 thoughts on “Political and cultural freedom in New Zealand has reached its most vulnerable point in history

  1. New Zealand has done pretty well resisting foreign interference through the years. I would expect the current PM to be strong willed on this going forward but you just never know the conversations that gone on behind closed doors. Yes China’s an economic powerhouse that can easily influence the region but at least they are a known quantity. I actually think that the US under trump is causing more global disturbance.

    1. Yes Trump is a troubling part of the mix. But the ascendency of China is inevitable in a way and the descendency of America as the world’s super power is also inevitable given the population dynamics. Which country controls the ocean in terms of trade and which country is our strongest ally is going to dictate how much money people can earn and our standard of living in Australia and New Zealand. Oh god it’s all so complicated and completely not controlled by anyone except for those in power, I guess we can’t worry about it…simply just see how it all pans out.

      1. That’s about it. There’s lots of concerning aspects to all this — it’s one of the reasons that I really restrict my news intake. We’re much, much more sensitive to negative developments or fearful possibilities and the media knows this all too well. A lot of these things are impossible to predict after all. Those two books, Rosling’s ‘factfulness’ and Pinker’s enlightenment now’ might be worth reading (i haven’t yet, but soon will) as they both paint a positive picture on the current state of play

      2. I read Enlightenment Now a little while ago, and found it a slow and ponderous read, but very positive in how he paints the picture about the state of the world being better than it has ever been. It was refreshing and it puts the world in a broader historical context about how bad things were then versus now. Also, a known human bias is to always put on the rose coloured glasses about the past and see the present and future with grimness, it’s human nature to be pessimistic about the future. I have drastically decreased my consumption of news lately and it has made me so much happier! 🙂

      3. I have that book and ‘factfulness’ as well—haven’t got round to reading either. I will though. Living at almost any other time in history would be have brutal and it’s nice to be reminded of that fact

    1. Yes, Australia really is in deep shit with how they are trying to navigate a path between China and the US. I watched a really interesting lecture online the other day. I think you would like it, if you have the time. It paints a pretty scary picture about the choice Australia is facing right now, either turn towards the US or to China. They can’t simply sit on the fence as they have been up until now, they need to make a choice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRlt1vbnXhQ

  2. By coincidence, a friend of mine was using the term ‘Lotus Eaters’ a day ago – as I’d finally found some blue lotus blooms and stuffed them into a bottle of red wine. No narcotic effects yet…. (:

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