New Zealand rebukes China envoy for remarks on HK supporters, freedom of speech

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced Consul-General of Auckland Ruan Ping was admonished

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The New Zealand Foreign Ministry reportedly dispatched officials to the Chinese consulate in Auckland this week to chide the consul-general for comments made last week following a scuffle that took place between pro-Hong Kong demonstrators and Chinese students at the University of Auckland.

The New Zealand Foreign Ministry on Wednesday (Aug. 7) released a statement declaring that ministry officials met with Chinese Consul-General Ruan Ping on Monday (Aug. 5) to rebuke him for his unacceptable comments and lack of respect for New Zealand’s laws and traditions.

"The government has rebuked China over its recent comments and actions where it sought to suppress freedom of speech and voiced support for violent opposition to Hong Kong protesters in New Zealand," read the statement from New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry.

Following the original incident on July 30, Ruan Ping praised the actions and “spontaneous patriotism” of Chinese students who confronted student demonstrators. In his statement, he also used the phrase “so-called freedom of expression” to deride the actions of local students drawing attention to the crisis in Hong Kong.

The content and attitude of Ping’s statements alarmed and unnerved many New Zealanders, who felt that the Chinese representative was not showing respect for the institutions and rights which all New Zealanders are afforded. The public was galvanized after minority parliamentarian David Seymour publicly addressed the Chinese diplomat and asked for him to reconsider his statements.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, was asked about the incident on Monday. She responded that academic freedom would be safeguarded and that “interference from foreign entities or from government” would not be tolerated, reports Channel News Asia.

On Wednesday Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters echoed those statements and emphasized that China will be expected to respect freedom of speech in New Zealand and the rule of law in the country, reports NZ Herald.