Saturday, June 19, 2010

This too shall pass

Greens co-leader Russel Norman almost became a red carpet for the visiting Vice President of China Xi Jinpeng the other day. The vice premier was arriving at the front door of the Beehive as part of a three day visit to NZ. Russel Norman, MP, held a solitary vigil at the front door of the buildings holding a Tibetan flag and chanting. A Chinese wall of security blocked, disrupted and assaulted the MP on parliamentary grounds as Xi Jinpeng went in.

Ripped from the TVNZ footage here. It seems that Norman used a common netball manoeuvre to outflank a foreign security guard before the umbrella was launched. That's a pretty flash umbrella, isn't it? I haven't seen umbrellas used as weapons since the Cold War.

Then there's this guy. This guy is muscle, a Han Solo. After ripping the flag out of Norman's hand, it was this guy rubbing the flag under his shoe. He then realises that the people to his right are an NZ police officer and a Diplomatic Protection Squad member trying to pull him off. He looks right down the camera barrel then swift tails it into the Beehive and sanctuary.

China's leadership lost a lot of face that day. Farrar's disgusted. Smellie's disgusted. I'm disgusted.

It's not surprising that the NZ police are not following up on Norman's assault complaint. This is a diplomatic incident after all and above the cops' pay grade. However, choosing to run with the "insufficient evidence" line in the PR was a bald lie and an unequivocal finger of contempt to the NZ public.

MFATs on both sides should have been better prepared than this. Rod Donald already did it, after all. It is clear that it was a veritable spookarama of security services from both countries outside parliament before the arrival. They knew the setup.

This isn't about Tibet. Yeah, Rod Donald did it better on the Tibet thing, but Russel Norman had as much right to do what he did without assault. MP Gareth Hughes could have dressed up as an iPad and protested about labour conditions on the forecourt for all it mattered.

When Donald did it, an easy out with face maintained on both sides was arranged and the dignitary used one of the many other paths into parliament. Hell, even a last second change to the vastly underground carpark beneath the buildings should have been an option.

The decision was made this time to use the front door and run the gauntlet. A momentary discomfort lasting seconds from car to the corridors of power. Yeah, Norman was noisy and sounded a bit dope. But just as people watching the football have to put up with vuvuzelas, politicians have to be exposed to some minor discomforts at times too.

Parliament grounds are the Speaker's turf and no Speaker has ever barred an MP from entering or leaving the building. The only one allowed to manhandle our MPs around here is the Speaker. This privilege is not extended to a foreign official's entourage.

The long gone Joe Walding was the NZ Trade Minister who introduced China to our country. A misunderstanding was smoothed over by Walding when China went shopping for embassy land in Wellington in the early 70s. An appropriate turf was found near the Botanical Gardens. However, it was split into two lots with a large privately owned hotel in between. Walding took great pains to explain why his government couldn't just evict the hotel owners, which is what the Chinese were pushing for.

This is New Zealand. We do things differently here.