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Double Standards desecrate democracy

Double Standards- Thakur Ranjit Singh.jpgFreedom of speech is the hallmark of democracy and the parliamentary complex is its last bastion. What took place at the heart of New Zealand’s symbol of democracy recently was shameful.

New Zealand compromised its stance for trade with China.

I am not referring to the incident involving Green Party Co-Leader Dr Russel Norman’s protest in front of Parliament last fortnight but to another incident.

New Zealand’s hard stance on Fiji and cowering attitude to China reveals our double standards.

It was on March 26, 2007 that freedom of media in New Zealand was shamed.

Nick Wang and Tony Clark, respectively Editor and Cameraman of the Wellington based Chinese Capital News went to the Beehive to document then Deputy Prime Minister Dr Michael Cullen’s meeting with the visiting then Chinese Vice Premier, Zeng Peiyan. Mr Wang had prior approval to attend and photograph the event.

The two men were prevented from covering the meeting, after a local Chinese intelligence official told a member of the Diplomatic Protection Squad that he was ‘a problem.’

That was not the truth, because I was at the Annual Meeting of Amnesty International held two months later (May 2007), where the incident captured on camera was shown, covered earlier by mainstream television channels.

It appeared that the New Zealand Government did not want to offend the Chinese.

Double Standards- Dr Russel Norman.jpgParliamentarian jostled

If you create a Frankenstein monster, you cannot control it. That is what happened at the Parliament complex on June 18, 2010 when Chinese security personnel jostled Dr Norman as he confronted Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping upon his arrival.

Dr Norman was waving a Tibetan Flag, calling for democracy as Mr Xi’s delegation walked by, but a scuffle broke out, during which an umbrella was poked towards Dr Norman and the Flag pulled from his grasp and thrown to the ground.

Dr Norman, emerging with a bleeding hand, complained to police of assault. But the Police responded saying there was not enough evidence to book a complaint.

The bigger issue here is about freedom of speech and action. The New Zealand Government lectures Fiji about democracy, allows the sanctity of Parliament to be bloodied by trade and commercial expediency.

Not the first

What was disconcerting was that the nasty incident was not the first of its kind.

Mr Wang’s treatment in 2007 was ignored and the Government’s lackadaisical attitude has returned to humiliate us again. This time a Member of Parliament was given a taste of Tiananmen Square oppression.

This incident gets more amplified and sours a greater hypocritical taste when you consider successive Governments have been treating Fiji.

It is not good enough for Labour Leader Phil Goff to lament that peaceful protest was part of political and cultural tradition of New Zealand.

It was his Labour Government, which failed to pass this message strongly to the Chinese when the latter abused media freedom in 2007.

Now, the Chinese have assessed our spinelessness and have traded the same blow on one of our lawmakers. We cannot blame the Chinese, since we have allowed their security personnel to trample the long established diplomatic protection principle and tradition that the local security was the responsibility of the host government.

If the New Zealand Government cannot convey a stronger message to visiting Chinese dignitaries and retain its sovereignty in its own Parliamentary complex, it should stop pontificating democracy and rule of law to its weaker Pacific neighbour, Fiji.

Those in the ivory tower of the New Zealand Foreign Office should realise that the source for the goose is also the source for the gander. They may now appreciate and understand how weaker countries feel when bullied by economically stronger neighbours.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is an Indian Newslink columnist, a political commentator and a Post Graduate student in Journalism Studies at the Auckland University of Technology. Email: thakurji@xtra.co.nz

Photo: Green Party MP Dr Russel Norman waiving the Tibetan Flag in front of Parliament on June 18, 2010 prior to the arrival of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping.

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