Labour leader Phil Goff said there mistakes on both sides.
“The Chinese security guard had no right to seize the flag from Russel Norman. There is an absolute right of peaceful protest in this country that we must uphold.”
And I agree. They had a right to stop Norman from advancing any closer, but they had no right to try and hide his flag. They were clearly wrong to do so.
But Mr Goff said Dr Norman could have acted with more restraint.
“Did Russel Norman behave with the dignity you might have expected of an MP? I think he might have learned from (former Greens leader) Rod Donald’s lesson of standing back, giving a bit of space, making the point, but not being confrontational.”
Exactly. He was advancing on the Vice-President and got very very close to him. If he had done what Rod Donald did, then the fracas would never have happened. The suspicion is that maybe he did it deliberately.
Mr Goff said there needed to be a clear protocol allowing peaceful protest but at the same time giving space and dignity to visitors.
Yep. If MPs wish to protest on the forecourt they have every right to. But they don’t have the right to impede the right of overseas leaders from entering buildings, or to be so close to them they represent a threat to their dignity (such as having a flag thrown over them) – NZ in fact has an obligation under Article 29 of the Vienna Convention:
The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.
This is why John Key apologised – not for the protest by Norman, but the failure in security that allowed him to get within spitting or throwing distance.
He said there was some confusion which could have been avoided on Friday.
“A quiet word beforehand between Russel Norman and the diplomatic police could have set a situation where a protest could have been made without the incident occurring.”
Exactly. Bravo to Phil Goff for taking a fair approach on this.