August 14, 2023
China's New Zealand Embassy, in Wellington Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades
The Chinese embassy in Wellington has finally responded to claims made by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) that its government has been interfering in New Zealand.
A report by the SIS on Friday identified China, Russia and Iran as being responsible for foreign interference and said their actions had the potential to cause significant harm.
"Only a small number of states engage in interference against New Zealand, but some do so persistently and with the potential for significant harm," the report said, "This report highlights the activities of three states in particular: the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Islamic Republic of Iran and Russia."
Mis- and disinformation were also identified as a common factor affecting a range of threats.
"Some states will seek to gain an advantage in any way they can.
Technological developments are a common feature of strategic competition but attempts to drive social changes are becoming equally commonplace. The race to gain an upper hand is also helping to fuel a hyper-active information environment in which disinformation can spread rapidly," the report said.
The report also said China surveilled and possibly threatened Chinese New Zealanders who criticised the government.
"NZSIS is aware of ongoing activity in and against New Zealand and our home region that is linked to the PRC's intelligence services. This is a complex intelligence concern for New Zealand," the report said.
The report labelled these kind of efforts - aimed at curbing dissent among expatriates - as "transnational repression", which could include surveillance and monitoring, harassment, threats and assaults, harm to relatives still in the country of origin, and "involuntary repatriation" where people were forcibly returned to their country of origin.
RNZ sought a response from the embassy, which replied on Monday that China never interferes in other countries' internal affairs.
The spokesperson said the Chinese government's exchanges and interactions with expatriates were normal.