The strange case involving Professor Anne Marie Brady and the apparently politically inspired burglaries of her home and office and the allegation of tampering with her car received further coverage by Matt Nippert in the Herald this morning.
Police investigations are continuing. As detailed by Nippert:
To date police have made only one brief comment on the affair, saying in September while it was a “complex case” they had “positive lines of inquiry” and Interpol were involved.
It is understood a secretive branch of police, the national security investigations team typically employed to handle terrorism and espionage cases, is working the case.
The article includes this open letter signed by twenty eight senior academics and researchers including Nicky Hager. The letter says this:
As New Zealand academics, researchers and human rights advocates, we have been shocked and disturbed by the reports of intimidation and harassment suffered byProfessor Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University. According to news reports, she has been repeatedly burgled and her car tampered with, starting from December 2017. Reports have suggested that these events are related to her high-profile academic work on overseas influence campaigns by the government of the People’s Republic of China. Attempts to intimidate and harass one academic in New Zealand have implications for the freedoms of all the others – and indeed, for the freedoms of all who live here, including migrant communities and tangata whenua. Freedom of expression and academic freedom are taken for granted in New Zealand, as givens upon which our social and political norms are based. Threats to these freedoms should not be taken lightly. In these uncertain times, these are principles to hold to, and are not to be traded away.
We note that universities in New Zealand are legally obliged to act as “critic and conscience of society” (Education Act, 1989). For that obligation to be fulfilled, academics must be able to work without fear. As such, we echo the recent calls by Professors of Chinese history and literature Geremie Barmé and John Minford for the New Zealand authorities to take the threats against Professor Brady more seriously, in consideration of their implications for all New Zealanders. We reject any attempt to blame or scapegoat whole ethnic communities in New Zealand for threats to academic freedoms, and urge the government to be transparent in the outcome of any investigation in order to help prevent this. We also urge Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to make a clear statement in defence of academic freedom in New Zealand in light of the Brady case, and to be very clear that any intimidation and threats aimed at silencing academic voices in this country will not be tolerated.
The Greens and ACT have also indicated support for the intent of the letter. David Seymour has gone further and chosen to attack Ardern:
It’s been far too long for an issue as important as academic freedom, and ultimately New Zealand’s freedom and sovereignty,” he said.
“It makes you wonder if Winston and Jacinda are living on their knees because they’re too scared to die on their feet – and this position is not acceptable to rest of the country.”
The criticism is unfair. Of course she should wait for the inquiry to conclude before saying anything. When relationships with China are concerned you do not blunder in.
This is not a particular problem for only New Zealand. Last year then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a ban of political donations from foreign sources. And Labor has called for a Parliamentary Inquiry into foreign influence on Australian politics.
The incident brings into sharp focus National’s acceptance and the apparent carve up to hide a $100,000 donation from Chinese sources. The police inquiry into that is ongoing. If it was not for the salacious details of some of Jami-Lee Ross’s revelations I suspect this particular allegation would have had even more attention focussed on it. Although the claim that two Chinese MPs are more valuable than two Indian MPs is still resonating through the ethnic community. And there is the troubling concern about the links that National MP Jian Yang may have with the Chinese Government.
This is not a simple issue for Ardern. How do you handle relations with arguably the most powerful nation in the world when these allegations are swirling around. I am not surprised that planned trips to China by Ardern have been postponed.