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Speaker sets rules for MP protests

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Lockwood Smith
Lockwood Smith

Wellington, July 1 NZPA - Parliament's Speaker, Lockwood Smith, has set some rules for MPs who want to demonstrate on the forecourt following the scuffle involving Green's co-leader Russel Norman when Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping visited last month.

Dr Smith has also told Dr Norman his behaviour was inappropriate and unnecessarily impeded others who were going into the building.

The minor fracas happened when Dr Norman held up a Tibetan flag as the vice-president was about to enter Parliament, and Chinese security officials tried to put an umbrella over him to cover it up.

Dr Norman was pushed and the flag was pulled out of his hands. He retrieved it and continued to protest about suppression of free speech and human rights.

Dr Smith today released a letter he has sent to all MPs saying he expects them to tell him in advance of any planned protest so agreement can be reached about how it will be staged.

He said it might be necessary to clearly delineate an area for a protest so it was separate from other activities on the forecourt.

"It is important that Members of Parliament are able to express their views, but in doing so they must not impede the rights of others," he said in the letter.

Dr Smith wrote a separate letter to Dr Norman.

"There is no question that Members of Parliament and the New Zealand public have a right to express their views by way of peaceful protest," he said in the letter.

"I am concerned however that the television coverage and the parliamentary security CCTV show that your behaviour was inappropriate and unnecessarily impeded others."

Dr Norman told reporters he didn't think he had impeded the Chinese delegation.

"I disagree with him (Dr Smith) on that point ... I was standing there with a flag and got tangled up in the Chinese security guards who started to push me around," he said.

"Where I was standing was well away but it got more difficult when the first Chinese guards started pushing me and I ended up closer to the delegation than I had intended."

Dr Norman said he didn't have a problem with Dr Smith's letter to MPs.

"If it is clear where one has to stand then hopefully there will be more protection and in future we won't get grabbed by Chinese security guards."

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