Key recklessly, pointlessly, damages China relationship

Evidence that the Key Government recklessly approved a GCSB spying operation to intercept Chinese diplomatic communications between offices in Auckland will pointlessly damage our relationship with China, the Green Party said today.

The latest Snowden documents detail plans by the New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), to tap Chinese diplomatic communications between their two consular offices in Auckland. The papers don’t reveal if the operation, a joint project with the US National Security Agency (NSA), went ahead but we have no reason to think it did not.

“Breaking international agreements to spy on Chinese diplomatic communications in Auckland is reckless. It would bring very little, if any, benefit to New Zealand. If discovered and exposed, it carries enormous economic risk,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“The Green Party has never been afraid of openly speaking truth to the Chinese Government on important issues such human rights and democracy. That is what an independent and ethical foreign policy approach looks like. But spying on Chinese diplomatic communications in New Zealand to curry favour with the US government spy agencies is pointless and reckless.

“Everyone knows that the Chinese and American governments are engaged in spying on each other and various forms of cyber conflict. They are big enough and rough enough to handle the fallout when it is exposed. Dragging New Zealand into this conflict to intercept Chinese diplomatic communications on New Zealand soil is amazingly short-sighted.

“The Chinese Government will take a very dim view of this activity and, now that it has been exposed, the perceived loss of face is likely to lead to some form of overt or covert retaliation.

“The fact that John Key must have personally approved this operation will add insult to injury as the personal relationship between Government leaders is seen by the Chinese Government as particularly important.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be questioning why the Prime Minister and the GCSB ever thought this was a good idea.

“What these documents show is that John Key is willing to subvert New Zealand’s broader international economic and political interests to please the US Government. Yes, we need to have a strong relationship with the US Government but we can do that while maintaining our dignity and foreign policy independence.

“The test is, would we have spied on China on our own accord? It’s very unlikely. So why is New Zealand spying on behalf of the Americans?

“We need to have a sensible and independent foreign policy that puts the economic, political, and ethical goals of New Zealand first,” said Dr Norman.