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RNZ’s Chinese Spies story doesn’t add up

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, July 2nd, 2021 - 47 comments
Categories: China, chris hipkins, discrimination, Media, Politics, racism, Social issues, spin - Tags: , , , ,

On Monday, RNZ reported that “Chinese Communist Party spies are infiltrating New Zealand universities,”  citing the suspicions of three lecturers in Chinese history and politics.

Auckland University lecturer Dr. Stephen Noakes said that on one occasion, “There was someone I did not recognise in the room and that person was pointing a phone around and taking pictures of the slides.” Two other academics said similar things had happened to them.

Taking photos wasn’t the only evidence behind the lecturers’ suspicions. According to them, many Chinese students repeat nationalist talking points about China’s recent and ancient history, or challenge the lecturers on various points. Some don’t even appear to be students at all.

The allegations came as part of a new podcast that seeks to investigate China’s influence in New Zealand, hosted on the RNZ website.

The problem is that it doesn’t appear that RNZ, or the new podcast, have investigated other explanations for people taking photos in lecture rooms or challenging lecturers, nor assessed whether relatively loose allegations against chinese-looking people sitting at the back of lecture halls might have a negative impact upon international students.

As Security consultant Paul Buchanan put it in the Herald, there are a number of reasons why chinese citizens might be taking photos or starting arguments in university lectures. 

“There is a big difference between spies… and nationalistic mainlanders who feel compelled to sit in and ‘correct’ – in their words – the mistaken opinions of foreigners when it comes to Chinese history,” he said. If any interlopers were there in an official capacity, it’s also strongly possible they were there to “monitor what is said about China. And that gives them an idea of what China looks like to the educated classes abroad.”

At this point it is worth remembering that the only indication the “spies” were anything other than nationalist citizens was one lecturer’s anecdote about how one got off at a bus stop somewhere near the embassy.

But these possibilities weren’t given any thought in the RNZ article or podcast. There is no room for any doubt that any and all suspicious activity by chinese-looking people must be the work of “spies.” This probably has something to do with the ideological outlook of the Red Line podcast, which first featured the allegations.

Red Line retains some pretence of journalistic impartiality while featuring all manner of “China Watcher” foreign policy ghouls relatively uncritically. People featured on the podcast include US General and Trump advisor HR McMaster (sure, it’s Chinese officials interfering in our public discourse), and Anne Marie Brady, probably New Zealand’s foremost Cold Warrior, and one of the academics alleging lecture hall “spying.” 

It’s also deeply strange that according to education minister Chris Hipkins, the academics didn’t report the issue, nor did the RNZ journalist. This would seem a logical course of action for anyone taking the issue seriously, rather than just seeking to cause a stir and plug a podcast.

All that said, it is certainly believable that non-student Chinese citizens, maybe even people acting under embassy direction, are interrupting lectures. I know from my own experience that many governments encourage their foreign citizens, and sometimes students, to challenge critics in public venues. Both Indonesia and Morocco have sent people to interrupt speaking events for West Papua and Western Sahara that I’ve attended, although of course a closed lecture theatre is quite a bit worse. Still, embassies engaging in observation and influencing actions is a pretty normal occurrence, one that only seems to take a sinister form when it comes from one embassy in particular.

My questions are: what is the difference between a “spy,” an “agent,” or a foreign citizen (however misguided) who takes it upon themselves to interrupt a lecture? Are their arguments best countered by accusing them of being a spy, when it is very possible they are either students, or a random nationalist member of the public? Finally, where is the outrage when repressive governments like Indonesia, Morocco, or indeed the United States send their embassy staff to influence New Zealand public opinion? Or is this only an issue when there are anecdotal ties to the Chinese embassy.

On these questions it is worth looking at the broader context of anti-Asian paranoia across the world.

Anti-Asian, and especially anti-Chinese violence is on the rise, something many see as a result of former US president Donald Trump’s efforts to scapegoat China for the poor virus response within the US. Under the new presidency of Joe Biden, things haven’t improved much, with a new wave of previously discredited “lab-leak” theories given newfound legitimacy, despite the warnings of the scientists who originally proposed the possibility. 

Community leaders blamed this rhetoric for the killings of six women in Atlanta, which sparked nationwide “Stop Asian Hate” protests across the US. But this was not an exclusively American phenomenon. In Aoteaora, similar protests followed the lead of US organisers, highlighting anti-Asian hate crimes here, such as a beating in a Rotorua spa last year. Organisers said that Chinese people are used as scapegoats for everything from Coronavirus to the housing market. A Human Rights Commission report found that about one in five Asian people in Aotearoa have experienced increased discrimination since the start of 2020. While criticism of the CPC is certainly different from sinophobia, critics of the Chinese state need to be careful not to whip up a paranoiac frenzy that can spill out onto whole immigrant communities once vague allegations of spying enter the public consciousness. We’ve seen red scares before, and Red Line seems like it’s doing its best to start a new one.

When it comes to foreign interference, a lot of attention is lavished on Chinese perpetrators while other, much less covert influencing operations go on without anyone noticing. If New Zealanders are to avoid becoming the pawns of either side in a new Cold War, this would mean being more consistent when it comes to opposing foreign influences over public opinion. This might involve investigating the impacts of the recent US decision to spend some $300 million on influencing global news media to be more critical of China. While we’re at it, we might consider uprooting the actual spybases on our soil that send their data to the US, or dismantling what is effectively a US military facility on the Mahia peninsula. Foreign influence only seems to sound scary when it isn’t coming from the world’s foremost military hegemon.

For all the talk of nebulous Chinese propaganda efforts across the west, much less time is spent talking about the degree to which anti-Chinese paranoia might be a reflection of an entirely different propaganda campaign. While stories about Chinese spies make for appealing headlines, such accusations are dangerous in universities where international students are already subject to suspicion. This wouldn’t be the first time that unfounded accusations of Chinese spying have lead to widespread racial profiling within an academic community, and we should expect our only publicly-funded news provider to be more conscious of the effects loose and anecdotal allegations of spying can have on immigrant communities.


lprent: The author requested anonymity because of a a known tendency to attack authors of similar pieces. This is explicitly allowed for in our policy. I checked the author out as far as I needed to, to make sure that they were a real person and they had and were expressing their own opinion – as is required on this site. Unusually, I helped with this second draft by savagely rejecting the first on on the basis that they made assumptions and presumptions that were unwarranted.

I’d strongly suggest that attacking the opinions of the author on the basis of anonymity would be unwise. Anonymity for guest posts is explicitly allowed by site rules. Being anonymous behind a handle (including a purported ‘real name’) and attacking someone else for doing the same thing gets treated as the actions of blatant hypocrite.

47 comments on “RNZ’s Chinese Spies story doesn’t add up ”

  1. Byd0nz 1

    The Yellow peril,
    An old line we were fed,
    Then who could forget,
    The Red under the bed.
    The same old bogeyman,
    Still out and about,
    Armed now with high tech,
    To give us a clout.
    But like an old joke,
    It is wearing quite thin,
    Better to direct it.
    To the old rubbish bin.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    lol forgive me if I doubt the credentials of an anonymous poster attacking the partiality of a report on the CCPs influence in NZ.

    [lprent: They requested anonymity and were fairly unaware of the site’s habits. The only ‘credential’ offered in the post is that they have attended some public meetings. They offer an opinion and then argue the basis of that opinion. It appears that you are too lazy to read what they actually wrote. Scared of thinking for yourself before reaching for the convenient flywhisk?

    As far as I am aware the author doesn’t have a handle on the site. I meant to get a handle, but it was 2am when I put the post up. I’ll tag a note on the post now.

    However I checked them back digitally as far as I needed to, and I am a paranoid veteran of the net.

    I rather savagely attacked their first draft because it wasn’t worth putting up for discussion (assertions, misunderstandings about lectures closed nature, etc). This second one is a lot better and does raise interesting questions. I probably disagree with a lot of their opinion.

    Guyon Espiner, in my personal observation spends far too much time reading kiwiblog, and seems ludicrously to believe some of the trash on it. This became obvious to me when I did an interview with him at RNZ where the questions about The Standard sounded like they’d come straight out of the kiwiblog and whaleoil’s set of Standard lies. I lost a lot of respect I had for him about then.

    But I’d suggest that you look at the Espiner article closely and figure out how much is stated as fact, what was said, and what is assumption and innuendo. The facts are very minimal – essentially interlopers in lectures and most of the article is pure innuendo and smear. It isn’t a investigative article – it is just a headline and a mischief making exercise that looks like Farrar wrote it. ie basically bullshit.

    This one is much more solidly based IMHO. ]

    • Brigid 2.1

      Did you not read this?

      "The allegations came as part of a new podcast that seeks to investigate China’s influence in New Zealand, hosted on the RNZ website."

      There's no 'report'

      I expect you don't doubt the partiality of the author of a podcast. Why is that?

      • Sanctuary 2.1.1

        "..On Monday, RNZ reported .."

        But hey, lets all focus on semantics.

        Anyway, to state the bleeding obvious for you I can judge the partiality of Guyon Espiner's reporting or otherwise because, you know, his name is on the byline and I have heard of him in the past.

        I note that a quick check reveals the last five "Guest Posts" on this site named the writer (the only debatable one being a "Labour Westie" in a lovely tribute piece to the late Don Clark, so hardly a piece of controversial writing).

        Therefore it raises my eyebrows at least that suddenly this site is publishing anonymous pieces attacking reports critical of the CCP, especially as the report itself is on how the CCP attempts to intimidate, discredit and bully it's opponents. Irony abounds.

        • RedLogix 2.1.1.1

          The pattern you are referring to is precisely as predicted by one of my contacts – the phrase he used was that Xi Xinping had ordered a switch from 'wolf warrior' attacks to 'white monkey' propaganda.

          Expect more of it – a lot more.

          • Incognito 2.1.1.1.1

            Are you suggesting that the OP is “’white monkey’ propaganda”?

            • RedLogix 2.1.1.1.1.1

              The OP can speak to their own motivations, I'm merely reporting what my Chinese friends here are telling me.

              • Incognito

                Thank you for your answer; a simple “No” would have sufficed.

                Did your Chinese friends read the OP and comment on it?

          • Adrian Thornton 2.1.1.1.2

            Good ol' RedLogix, the guy who doesn't mind who is under his bed doing what, as long as they ain't Red…true to form.

        • ken 2.1.1.2

          With you on this.

      • Populuxe1 2.1.2

        Hmmm, let's see. Guyon Espiner and John Daniell are both established, credible journalists with no obvious history of partisan reporting, and RNZ is probably the most cautious broadcaster in the country, so…

        • lprent 2.1.2.1

          I read Espiners's article myself on Monday and thought what a pile of useless shit..

          No actual facts pointing to the headline and thesis. It was easy to come up with an alternate thesis (as is pointed out here).

          The ONLY relevant 'fact' in the Espiner article was hearsay that someone had gotten off a bus close to an embassy, but was not observed entering the embassy or wearing a security badge.

          That is just simple-minded stupid smearing of the worst possible type.

          It is about as stupid as saying that all union members are communists.

          • Populuxe1 2.1.2.1.1

            And you're perfectly entitled to your opinion.

          • Adrian Thornton 2.1.2.1.2

            Yep, read it as well, and thought exactly the same, RNZ has been sliding down the drain for quite a while now… every time I think they have sunk as low as they are going to go..they move the goal posts even lower, pretty depressing stuff really.

          • Tim Watkin 2.1.2.1.3

            Hi Lynn (and everyone),

            I hope this finds you well. It's been a while. I'm one of the executive producers of the podcast and, so you know, have never had a problem with rigorous interrogation of shows I've produced. But I'm also protective of rigorous journalism and of facts. So I wanted to respond to your guest post.

            The allegations made were not by RNZ, but by three senior academics at three universities. (Not "We report, we don't accuse. the reportage comes in the context of similar reports in Australia, the US, Germany and numerous other countries.

            Much of the comment came in response to a single story. It was one story, complete in itself, but clearly labelled as part of a series that investigated China's influence in New Zealand from a range of angles. Lyn,, I hope you and the guest poster might listen to all four episodes to hear the full investigation.

            The poster highlights Anne-Marie Brady and H.R. McMaster as people spoken to in the series. Contrary to the post's claims, they do not appear "uncritically". McMaster's arguments are weighted against John Key, who is strongly pro-China. The podcast reveals for the first time serious questions about Brady's claims of car tampering, for example. No-one else has made the effort to look into her claims as thoroughly as this podcast.

            The post doesn't mention at all the pro-China people in the series or the fact that we repeatedly asked Chinese government spokespeople for comment but were repeatedly refused. We did however use international news reports of other Chinese government spokespeople to ensure the CCP's position is made clear.

            Your post complains that RNZ did not report the academic's claims of influence and possibly spying in their lectures. It's an odd criticism to have in any commentary, as it's hardly a journalist's role to turn police officer.

            The post asks where is the criticism of the US and other countries when it tries to influence NZ public opinion? The obvious answer is The Service, a podcast made last year by the same team of journalists. (https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/the-service). Actually, the question asked is "where is the outrage?". I'd argue there's no outrage in the podcast or story the post refers to, simply considered reporting and story-telling.

            The post, troublingly, then goes on to link this issue to "anti-Asian paranoia across the world". This may be the poster's genuine opinion, but anyone who has listened to more of the series would be aware that this is a talking point taken straight from the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda arm, the United Front Works Department. In episode three I report on a protest where this spin is explicitly used to try to attack Chinese dissidents in New Zealand.

            I'd also add that one of the core. repeated questions of the series is "are we paranoid?". So this issue is part of every episode.

            Because of The Standard's policies on the author's anonymity, we can't judge whether or not this author could be spinning for the United Front. More transparency would help with that. But it's an important point that asking questions about the actions of the CCP and a government is not the same as attacking the citizens of that country. I believe The Standard has published posts in the past criticising Israel's use of that tactic. There is nothing in the series that suggests people should stigmatise Chinese New Zealanders, but conscious of that sensitivity Tze Ming Mok speaks to that exact point in episode four and we were very careful to distinguish between state and citizen. This post is less careful when it throws around claims such as "red scare". Asking questions about a state with China's record on human rights is not fear-mongering.

            Lynn, as for your attacks on the work, I wonder what you would regard as acceptable "facts". Obviously there is no way to prove the motives and identity of the people in those lectures. We never claim fact, but rather clearly rely on the analysis of the people who were there. They are experts, but if you listen to the series their own perspectives are all on display. It's standard journalism to report first-hand experiences. People can decide for themselves how much credence they put in those experiences. The alternative would be to refuse to report claims made by three senior academics, who all volunteered much the same experience. That would be odd self-censorship.

            I hope people reading this post take the opportunity to listen to the whole podcast and keep discussing the issue and deciding for themselves, rather than relying on others.

            • weka 2.1.2.1.3.1

              No mods around this morning to release the comment from the New Commenter filter, sorry.

              Commenting also to bump this up in the Comments list for visibility.

            • Anne 2.1.2.1.3.2

              Thank-you for your contribution Tim Watkin. I will reserve judgement on the series until it is completed.

              However there is one historical aspect which appears to have been overlooked, but it is pertinent to the story of our relationship with China.

              I refer to the former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister, Warren Freer. Freer was the first western politician to visit Communist China in the mid 1950s. His personal brief was to open up trade talks within the Asian region and in particular with China. Upon his return, he was charged by some – including former PM, Walter Nash – with being a Communist and a traitor and was forced to spend several years in 'Coventry' for his dastardly deed.

              In point of fact he was years ahead of his time. It is widely believed that it was because of Freer's previous visits that New Zealand became the first country in the western world to be able to sign a trade agreement with them. I recall Helen Clark acknowledging that Freer had "paved the way" for the FTA agreement which was signed during her tenure as PM.

              I recommend Freer's autobiography "A Lifetime in Politics" which not only provides fascinating insights into the NZ political scene between the 1940s and 1980s but has some very funny anecdotes as well.

            • hd 2.1.2.1.3.3

              Tim,

              Quoting John Key as a 'pro-China' counterweight doesn't remove your responsibility to provide critical reporting of the background of your 'anti-China' sources. Anne-Marie Brady and ASPI in particular have received funding and support from a range of US government agencies and defence industries. ASPI's funding details are available here.

              I personally believe these conflicts of interest make both Anne-Marie Brady and other ASPI representatives unreliable sources. You may not agree, but you should at least give equal weight to presenting valuable context. Otherwise you leave the impression that you have a pre-existing bias and that you are cherry-picking the context to support a pre-ordained outcome.

        • Anne 2.1.2.2

          Guyon Espiner and John Daniell are both established, credible journalists with no obvious history of partisan reporting,…

          Guyon Espiner and John Danielle are ‘Establishment’ journalists whose brief is to follow the Establishment line whether it be right or wrong.

          FIFY

        • Adrian Thornton 2.1.2.3

          "RNZ is probably the most cautious broadcaster in the country"…RNZ is guard dog of the Liberal status quo, which their 'reporting' reflects in a hundred different ways every day.

    • Obtrectator 2.2

      Exactly. Who is this "guest"?

      [Put up before LPrent’s reply had loaded. But it’s still a valid question, even if no answer is going to be forthcoming.]

      [lprent: Not really – read the post. If people want to concentrate on the author, then I will concentrate on moving all such comments to OpenMike or banning persistent offenders.

      From the policy.

      If we are putting up material from a guest poster, then it will go up under “Guest Post” and may or may not have a name or pseudonym attached.

      The Gosman (hypocrisy) ruling. People using a pseudonym to comment who then claim that other people commenting/posting anonymously (or any words construed to mean that) will have their own comments treated as being anonymous. Since this site does not allow anonymous comments, they will receive an immediate long ban.

      Like – who in fuck are you? ]

      • Obtrectator 2.2.1

        Someone who doesn't think they have to justify themselves to anyone using unnecessarily profane language. (So go ahead and ban me – the equivalent of a dictatorial father, realising he's lost the argument and saying to his child "stop trying to be clever". As I've said before, there's lots of other fora whose administrators aren't so unduly sensitive or reliant on cuss-words to get their point across.)

  3. Populuxe1 3

    And spinning perfectly reasonable concern about demonstrable PRC influence and intimidation on NZ university campuses as racism is exactly why faffing around with our hate speech laws terrifies me.

    • lprent 3.1

      I'd argue that

      demonstrable PRC influence and intimidation on NZ university campuses

      hasn't been demonstrated as far as I am concerned.

      As far as I can see the universities (the body that would be most concerned) haven't detected it either. It appears that no-one (at least in public) has complained to police or security services.

      I have just heard people claiming it happens without any substantive evidence. What Espiner wrote about isn't evidence. It is just hearsay and people leaping to a conclusion.

      This country operates on a rule of law. It doesn't operate on hysterical accusations without any particular evidence. That is the way of idiot populists like the late Joe McCarthy or Donald Trump.

      • Populuxe1 3.1.1

        And you're perfectly entitled to your opinion.

        • lprent 3.1.1.1

          Which bit do you think I am entitled to have an opinion on?

          About the rule of law? Or the examination of the probity of evidence? That is the basis of our criminal and civil law systems. Do you have a contrary opinion on the value of those?

          Curiously enough ultimately these are part of having any rational debate about almost anything in our democracy. They define what restrictions we place on actions within our society.

          The value of Donald Trump or Joe McCarthy is an opinion based largely on their inability to confine themselves within the bounds of either.

          ie quoting an meaningless aphorism and avoid to the question is just a rather pitiful abdication from either debate or thinking about a topic.

  4. Subliminal 4

    From the Red Line podcast linked to in the RNZ article it is very refreshing to hear from Haami Piripi and have confirmed by him the ease and respect accorded to him by the Chinese in securing a $6M loan for Maori owned internet infrastructure in the far north. Not to mention the relaxed attitude towards falling behind in the payment schedule. Haami said he felt he was being dealt with in a relationship of equals. So no seizure of assets. Can you imagine any Western money lender with this attitude? China has vast resources and capabilities because they refused to do what NZ did in selling off all our SOEs and banking. There SOEs are huge and generate enormous profits. All money creation banking is owned by the State. This is why they can not only lift huge numbers out of poverty but also be generous in their dealing with the rest of the world. Haami Piripi could not get any traction with NZ institutions because all our money is siphoned off overseas. If we had held on to all our commons that was laid down by our ancestors we could have been as successful as China in caring for our own people. Houses would still be affordable with a robust health system, cheap electricity and free education.

    • hd 4.1

      The Red Line podcast repeats the line that China is engaging in debt trap diplomacy, without being able to cite any actual examples of seizing assets based on the debt they're advancing. A lot of the hand-wringing over Chinese loans being offered comes off as a patronizing towards those accepting the debt, as if they're too unsophisticated or greedy to comprehend what kind of deal they're making.

  5. McFlock 5

    Hmmm.

    Not sure which idea is worse than the other, really: monitoring of overseas academic courses by low-level bureaucrats (you wouldn't waste James Bond on this); or random ultra-nationalists taking it upon themselves to monitor and disrupt courses that don't meet their geopolitical ideals.

  6. Pete 6

    This morning I heard the bit about about "how one got off at a bus stop somewhere near the embassy."

    It's all rather exciting for me. Next time I'm in Wellington I'll hang around Kelburn and take photos of Chinese getting off buses. I'll be able to say I've got photos of Chinese spies. I mean, they'd have to be wouldn't they?

    • Anne 6.1

      I once went to Wellington on a special course to do with my job and someone wove a conspiracy theory around it. The gist of it (as far I can tell) was that I was spying on a sensitive government department for a certain political party and my presence in Wellington was presumably to report my findings. 😯 😯

      Clue: it happened in the late 1980s.

  7. Patricia Bremner 7

    Well it has been proven that the group being threatened is "surveilled" for terrorism in the past. Perhaps we are looking East when we should be examining the other compass points? devil

  8. weston 8

    Guyon Espiner cracks himself up to be an investigative journalist but he,s not much of one i reckon at least not in the same league as say Nickey Hager not even close .I listened for about five minutes to his last big "Exposure "till i noticed the wooooo musac in the background gives me the shits that sort of thing like we the sheeple are supposed to hear woooooo musac while we,re listening and think WOW this must be important but it just makes me think of sensationalized bbc or 60 minutes junk ….click.Theres plenty to be wary of coming from china imo but as others have commented other threats exist also.

  9. Jarimba 9

    Stop Asian Hate in New Zealand was run by an American man from Cornell University with his Vietnamese-New Zealand girlfriend who led the march. Black Lives Matter was run by a man who is also based at the University of Cornell.

    Cornell seems to have become a real centre of radical left politics in New Zealand. Remind me where the turnoff is on State Highway One?

    [Bye bye, troll – Incognito]

  10. barry 10

    The litany of articles recently attacking China does seem like a campaign. Whether it is organised, or just a group of bullies realising that China is fair game I don't know.

    There are real human rights problems in China, but that is not unique to China. It would be hard to get similar articles published about the US. We are sometimes critical of Australia for its treatment of 501s and asylum seekers, but such criticism is only a small part of the discourse about Australia.

    There is no balance any more when it comes to China. This is not healthy for NZ.

  11. Adrian Thornton 11

    Good piece thanks and thanks to The Standard for putting it up..a much needed counterpoint to the current anti Chinese hysteria swirling around unchecked at this moment, well done…btw, RNZ, as I have mentioned time and again, never offer this type of balance..they obviously have no idea what 'fairness and balance in reporting' even is,

    Strange (but not really) that when China suddenly emerges as a serious threat to western corporate hegemony…just as suddenly we are faced with a literal barrage of what can only be described as outlandish anti-Chinese propaganda.

    Now you would think that anyone with even just the slightest operating critical thinking brain rattling around inside their cranium, would see through such an obvious attempt to manipulate their opinions…but no, sadly so many people prove yet again that they are either extremely lazy thinkers or are as stupid as fuck…probably both.

    • Tiger Mountain 11.1

      Well put, you do not have to be some sort of uncritical China fan to sense the disturbance in the force inherent in the current “China Bash” media campaign.

      RNZ’s “Redline” programme I heard today was verging on Macarthyism such was the number of here-say comments and unattributed speakers and quotes. A lecturer said he was concerned that someone he had not seen before took photos and notes in class–well he could always have asked for credentials rather than scaremonger.

      The ultimate resolution is for the Chinese working class to get fully organised and reduce authoritarianism as it applies to them, but in the meantime a jockeying for position is going on between imperialist powers that we do not all have to buy into.

      • Incognito 11.1.1

        Aren’t all lectures recorded and available online nowadays, you know, for the convenience of the poor fee-paying students? Those “spies” sound like a bunch of amateuristic dilettantes to me.

        • Andre 11.1.1.1

          Assuming the incidents happened as described, perhaps the intent was to be deliberately intimidatory, rather than information gathering.

          • Incognito 11.1.1.1.1

            Perhaps or perhaps not.

            It would more ‘intimidating’ if they were taking photos of students in the lecture.

            When making extraordinary claims about ‘spying’ and ‘intimidation’, one should put up at least some robust evidence. At present, it feels more like headline stuff and clickbait.

        • Adrian Thornton 11.1.1.2

          "Those “spies” sound like a bunch of amateuristic dilettantes to me" roger that, and that is being very generous…that Guyon Espiner was allowed by RNZ to just go on to our public news service and throw that stuff around is outrageous and unprofessional…but appealing to the lowest common denominator seems to be the trajectory RNZ is on.

  12. mac1 12

    "the only indication the “spies” were anything other than nationalist citizens was one lecturer’s anecdote about how one got off at a bus stop somewhere near the embassy."

    So, have a look at a map of bus stops near the Chinese Embassy. Take a look at the terrain, the amenities and the housing by that closest bus stop.

    It accesses Bowen Street, the cemetery, the botanic gardens, down along Tinakori Road, various eating houses. Further up the hill is a Chinese meditation centre. With the proximity of the Chinese embassy, the Chinese mediation centre, and a hill side of housing, there just might be another reason for alighting from a bus at that stop.

    I bet I used it to visit the park and gardens.

    The point made by the journalists that sometimes people do go to meetings to promote another point of view is true. I have done it myself and was noticed by the guest speaker, a rather anti-Islamic Anglican cleric from Africa, as being the member of the audience who was openly dubious.

    Afterwards I said to him, copying Lange, "I could smell the gun smoke in the room."

    Another time, members of the British Empire Loyalist League attended a public meeting of South African anti-apartheid campaigner and politician, Helen Suzman. One of them had a rant at question time that ended with a phrase I have never forgotten for its arrogant racist stupidity-"Christendom's purer form of man."

    People do go to meetings to check out what the opposition is saying. To that end I have heard speak Holyoake, Peters, Brash, Muldoon, Harry Lake, Bridges. Nothing more to it than that, but I bet some conspiracy theorist could add more to any of these events……..

  13. Nic 181 13

    Ive not listened to all of the podcasts but I respect the presenters and the presentation. Unknown people in lecture theatres, taking photos and presenting “alternative” facts is alarming. As is a mouthpiece for the CCP producing a Chinese language newspaper here. NZ follows a very delicate path. We need to trade and China is a big market. We also need to be very cautious of any form of coercion, no matter how sugar coated it is.

    NZ must grow its export market EVERYWHERE, not just in China.

  14. RedBaronCV 14

    Even if the articles themselves can be criticised – haven't there been instances of "import delays" on the docks in China when some one has been displeased? And Hong Kong has certainly suffered with the rules that where set up not being respected. IMHO we need to drift away – they look like a problematic trading partner. Does The Standard host more China is great stories that we do about other one party states?

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