More on China incident

June 21st, 2010 at 11:10 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key telephoned the most senior minister in the visiting Chinese delegation to apologise for the scuffle during the arrival of Vice-President Xi Jingping at Parliament.

I can understand why the PM felt it was necessary – because the screaming yelling protester was not just a member of the public, but a leader of a parliamentary party.

But having said that, I don’t think it was appropriate for the PM to apologise. He is not responsible for Norman, and by doing so may confuse the difference between the Government and the Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has also called for a full report on the incident from his ministry and he would like to see a protocol developed between the Speaker and protesting MPs for future visits.

This I think is a very good idea. The right to protest must be protected, but this doesn’t mean you allow protesters to get within a couple of metres of visiting VIPs – even if an MP.

If Norman had not been advancing on the Vice-President, this incident probably would not have happened. As a contrast Chris Trotter remembers Rod Donald:

My abiding memory of this remarkable man – my friend – Rod Donald, will be of him standing alone at the foot of the parliamentary steps, his face a mixture of sadness and defiance, holding up the forbidden Tibetan flag. It was a noble protest – and all the more effective for being conducted not by some raggle-taggle band of New Age anarchists, but by a senior Member of Parliament and party leader, dressed proudly and patriotically in his best, New Zealand-made, suit.

No advancing on the Vice-President, no shouting, no scruffling. That is the way to do it if you want to be an MP making a protest.

I am no fan of China’s repression. I think there should be protests when their VIPs visit. If the Greens had organised a Free Tibet protest outside Parliament, I might have even gone along to it.

Now having said that, it is clear that engagement with China is the only sane course of action. Refusing to trade or talk to them would be stupid. The trick is getting the balance of engagement and protest right.  And broadly you expect the Government to engage and civil society to protest. There is a time when Governments also protest – but that tends to be in response to specific events.

UPDATE: Colin Espiner blogs:

I know it’s fashionable to hate the Chinese, and everyone wants a free Tibet.

So much so you’d think they were handing them out in Weetbix packets.

But while I’ll probably get into trouble with the Left for saying this, I’m sorry, but Green Party co-leader Russel Norman was an embarrassment to himself, Parliament, and New Zealand with his protest against the Chinese vice-president’s visit last week. …

When I heard that Norman’s flag had been “trampled” I thought that was a bit on the nose, too, so I took a look at the video.

Strange how none of the many cameras there – both still and TV – managed to capture the so-called attack, or the flag trampling.

What they did capture, though, was an MP behaving in a way that no self-respecting member of Parliament with any dignity should behave.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support Russel Norman’s right to have his say. This is a free country, unlike China.

But sometimes, I think the RIGHT to free speech and EXERCISING it are confused.

For example, I can walk down the street and tell someone I don’t know that they’re fat. I have that right. But to do so would be impolite and irresponsible.

One of the deals of having freedom is the responsibility that comes with it over how you use it.

A point well made.

If Russel Norman was a private citizen he’d be banned from the steps of Parliament as a protester. He’d be behind the gates further down, where he could yell and scream to his heart’s content.

But he’s not a private citizen. He’s a member of Parliament. An employee and a representative of the people.

That meant Norman got to go right up to the Chinese VP, yell in his face, and wave a flag at him.

Unless the video I saw has been doctored, I saw Norman lunging at the VP and then yelling “give me my flag back” after one of his security guards grabbed it.

Colin makes the same point I have made – it was a long way removed from what Rod Donald did.

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The difference between Donald and Norman

June 19th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Dr Norman’s protest was in contrast to that of the late former co-leader of the Greens, Rod Donald, in 2005 against Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People’s Congress.

Mr Donald’s was a silent protest and he sought advice from the Speaker at the time about where to stand – some distance from his target.

New Zealand security and police stood with Mr Donald and refused to let Chinese security stand in front of him and the Tibetan flag he was holding.

Dr Norman was jostled as he held the flag aloft and moved chanting towards Mr Xi, arriving at Parliament’s Beehive entrance.

He was a metre or two from him.

One of at least two dozen officials travelling with Mr Xi covered the flag with his umbrella.

Seconds later someone grabbed the flag from him and dropped it.

Dr Norman stopped chanting “Freedom for the people of Tibet!” and started yelling “Give me my flag back” and “Don’t bring your undemocratic practices to our country”.

I think Rod Donald showed how to do a protest with dignity.

The Chinese officials should still have not touched Norman’s flag or person, but you do wonder if Norman was trying to get them to do exactly that by advancing on the Vice-President.

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Some questions?

May 16th, 2008 at 10:20 am by David Farrar
  1. Why has Steve Maharey not resigned as MP for Palmerston North, now he can do so without triggering a by-election? Does anyone think you can be Vice-Chancellor and an MP?
  2. Has NZ First paid back its $158,000 yet?
  3. Have United Future finished paying back the money it owes to Parliamentary Service?
  4. Why have NZ First and ACT not yet filed their 2007 donations return, 16 days after the deadline?
  5. Would Rod Donald have approved of manipulating MMP rules so that Russel Norman becomes an MP (scheduled for end of the month) with less than 30 house sitting days before the election? Is this not just an outrageous rort to allow Russel to use taxpayer funds to travel around the country for the campaign?
  6. Why would Labour’s website not list a single candidate who has been selected of the election? Is it because that is the only way they can get the taxpayer to fund 100% of it. Should Labour pay me for listing their candidates for them?
  7. If Winston is back in NZ now, why hasn’t any journalist asked him why they have broken the law by refusing to file their donations return, and why does it need the party leader to file a donations return?
  8. Has the Crown Law Office yet decided whether a balloon is an election advertisement?
  9. How big a mistake was it for Dr Cullen to cancel in last year’s budget the tax cuts he promised in 2005?
  10. How much damage did that conference song on John Key do to Labour? Was it more or less than the global economic slowdown?

UPDATE: For (4) The Electoral Commission has now received and published the ACT and NZ First returns.

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