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Adern to 'ask some questions' about claims academic targeted over Chinese influence work

Monday 19th February 2018

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will "ask some questions" about claims Canterbury University academic Anne-Marie Brady's research into China's international influence campaigns was linked to a series of break-ins. 

Last year Brady published a study saying China had expanded its attempts to influence foreign nations under President Xi Jinping's leadership, and urged the New Zealand government to mitigate that threat. Since then, she has dealt with multiple break-ins at her home and office, which she has linked to that work. 

At today's post-Cabinet press conference, MP Ardern said she had seen public reports of the events, "but I'll certainly ask some questions" and would be concerned if Brady was the target of criminal acts in response to her work. 

"I'll have to make sure I don't breach anyone's privacy in asking questions about something that's specific to an incident at her home," Ardern said. "But I would certainly want to be informed if there was evidence that this was targeted action against someone who was raising issues around foreign interference."

New Zealand has assiduously courted China over the years, touting its credentials as the first developed nation to recognise China as a market economy, support its accession to the World Trade Organisation, and start and complete a free trade agreement.

That's put it at odds with some of its traditional security allies, such allowing Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei to build telco networks domestically in contrast to Australia which banned the China company from bidding on the National Broadband Network build and more recently blocked a Huawei-made undersea cable from connecting to Australia's network. 

Ardern today said if there's any evidence Brady was targeted over her work, the government "should be taking stock of it and taking action."

(BusinessDesk)

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