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Green co-leader calls for local powers to have priority

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Russel Norman
Russel Norman

Wellington, June 22 NZPA - Local security should be in charge when foreign dignitaries visit New Zealand, Green co-leader Russel Norman says.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday told NZPA Parliament's security was likely to be tightened after the scuffle on Friday when Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping arrived.

Dr Norman was pushed by Chinese officials who tried to put an umbrella over him to hide a Tibetan flag he was waving.

The flag was pulled from his hands, although he managed to retrieve it and accuse the Chinese of trying to suppress freedom of speech in New Zealand.

"It's my intention... to take the matter up with Diplomatic Protection, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and with the Speaker's office because I think it's unacceptable that a dignitary of that level can't enter the building without their integrity being compromised," Mr Key said.

"In my view we will need to go and review our procedures and protocols."

Mr Key, who apologised to the Chinese over the incident, said a balance had to be found so visiting leaders could enter and leave the building without their "close space and their integrity" being challenged.

Dr Norman agreed there needed to be a change -- but contrary to greater control over MPs he said it should ensure that when foreign dignitaries were in New Zealand, local security detail took charge.

He tried to make a personal statement in Parliament today but was refused permission and issued it to media instead.

In it he said he had no intention of coming near to the vice-president and was holding a silent protest but when Chinese security tried to push and block him he started calling out "freedom for Tibet" and moved forward. He said he was grabbed and pushed, covered by an umbrella and had the flag torn from his hands.

Attempts to get around people and grab his flag back led him closer to the delegation than he had intended.

"I accept it looked a bit undignified and that isn't ideal. But it was pretty hard to look dignified (during a scuffle). But I would rather a little messy free speech than seamless totalitarian silence."

In Parliament Mr English pointed out that in extended TVNZ footage of the incident Dr Norman pushed a member of the delegation.

Dr Norman asked him about remarks Mr Key made that he should have held a silent protest. "Does he agree that in order to have freedom of speech, one has to be allowed to speak?"

Mr English said Dr Norman was free to speak but visitors should also have their dignity protected.

Answering Green Party questions, Mr English said that Mr Key had not specifically raised the right to freedom of opinion and expression when discussing human rights issues with the vice-president because the focus had been on trade and economic relations.

Journalist Nick Wang laid two complaints with police today saying a member of the Chinese security delegation had pushed him. Wang also alleged previously being assaulted by a member of Chinese government security during a dignitary visit and was complaining about that too.

Wang said the Chinese delegation had tried to prevent him taking photos at the airport when the vice-president arrived but New Zealand officials stood up for his right to be present.

Police have already declined to prosecute over a complaint Dr Norman laid.

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