No longer safe: Researcher harassed by China in her own country
After a quarter-century of researching China, Anne-Marie Brady is a veteran of Chinese government spying and harassment. "I was prepared for pressure in China," says the 52-year-old New Zealander, a well-regarded professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. "But I always felt safe in New Zealand. So that changed." Last week she wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeking police protection. It was her first direct appeal to Ardern, but her third in a series of pleas to escalating levels of officialdom.
First came the pressure on her university. Chinese officials demanded that her immediate superior stop her research. It might have worked – the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the mayor of Christchurch backed them up in an effort to appease Beijing. They failed when the university vice-chancellor intervened on behalf of academic freedom. But it was just the beginning.
Next, her office was broken into in December 2017. As far as she could tell, nothing was taken. "I think it was meant to scare me, to show me people could come into my office." If so, it worked: "I felt this great dread," after the intrusion. "I reported it to security and there was no follow-up."
Xi Jinping's best allies in the West: rent seeking turd-politicians always seeking the easiest way out; smug officialdom and complaisant, lazy guardians of public safety.
So when Australian Liberal MP Julian Leeser asked Brady whether she'd encountered any personal difficulties from Beijing over her work, she replied "yes", and summarised the various incidents. The Chinese government was deeply displeased that Brady had spoken out. "Soon after my testimony to the Australian parliamentary committees, some of my colleagues in Chinese universities were visited by the Ministry of State Security.
"They were very angry that I had spoken about the burglaries and break-ins. They were particularly upset that I had spoken it into Hansard," the official record of proceedings of the Parliament. Yet the NZ police didn't take the matter seriously. And the incidents continue. In November, Brady's car was tampered with. The NZ police treated the matter with familiar indifference and told the mechanic not to speak to the media.
Thereby doing the work of the PRC secret service for it - the team of shirkers.
When Brady and her family returned home this month after a Christmas holiday, their phone rang at 3am. The caller was silent. The number is unlisted.
It's not only her Antarctic research that Beijing wants to stop. She also unearthed the fact that a member of the NZ Parliament spent 15 years working for Chinese military intelligence but never disclosed it. But the harassment in her own country seems to have been in angry response to her 2017 report in NZ, titled Magic Weapons: China's Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping.
The title is a reference to the fact that President Xi named three "magic weapons" of Chinese Communist Party power – the People's Liberation Army, the party's program to strengthen and build itself, and the party's United Front Work Department that covertly spreads party influence through the overseas Chinese diaspora and elements of Chinese culture and business. This is the same Chinese Communist Party agenda that the Turnbull government sought to address with its foreign influence laws, which are just now about to take full effect.
The power of Brady's work is that she meticulously reads original Chinese documents in the original Mandarin. It is her own "secret weapon". Australia's John Garnaut, a Mandarin-speaking former Beijing correspondent for this newspaper, says: "Professor Brady is a first-rate scholar who has led the global conversation and almost single-handedly woken up NZ." The chair of the Australian Parliament's security and intelligence committee, Andrew Hastie, says that after listening to her evidence and other conversations, "it appears that she's a target of interest for the Chinese Communist Party or apparatchiks of the Chinese state as a way of silencing her and intimidating her."
Unfortunately for Brady, her country's government is more interested in appeasing China's rulers than protecting her, or protecting NZ's democratic freedoms. "It's very clear," says Brady, "that my country's government wants this story to go away. The Chinese Ministry of State Security operates in our societies unhindered and our governments just watch. It's happening in Australia, too."
John Garnaut, who was commissioned by Malcolm Turnbull to write the classified report that informed his government's foreign interference laws, confirms: "It would be naive and also reckless to assume that similar activities are not happening here."
In the meantime Brady and her family are left to defend themselves. "It's an uneven contest," she says. "we are just an ordinary family facing down the Chinese Communist Party." She is continuing her work regardless: "I haven't changed. China's changed."Unfortunately for Brady, her country's government is more interested in appeasing China's rulers than protecting her, or protecting NZ's democratic freedoms. "It's very clear," says Brady, "that my country's government wants this story to go away. The Chinese Ministry of State Security operates in our societies unhindered and our governments just watch. It's happening in Australia, too."
In the meantime Brady and her family are left to defend themselves. "It's an uneven contest," she says. "we are just an ordinary family facing down the Chinese Communist Party." She is continuing her work regardless: "I haven't changed. China's changed."