China isn’t the real threat to liberal democracy – ‘we are’, say academics

Analysing China … Dr Stephen Noakes (from left), Dr David Williams (host), Professor David Matas and Barry Wilson talking to the audience at the University of Auckland last week. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

The Chinese government is accused of illegally harvesting the organs of Falun Gong members. However, a leading academic says that China isn’t the real threat – Western countries are themselves, reports Rahul Bhattarai of Asia Pacific Journalism.

Leading academics warn that the “problem” with China is not the Chinese Communist Party but that Western self-censorship is “killing” its liberal democracy.

“China is not the real threat there, we are, we are the biggest threat to liberal democracy in New Zealand,” says Dr Stephen Noakes, senior lecturer in politics and international relations and Asian studies at the University of Auckland.

“Every time we self-censor, when we choose not to speak out, when we chose to keep quiet for fear of not getting a visa, or not getting a trade deal … But since we, through our obsequiousness towards China are a potential threat, we can also be the cure,” he told a  public seminar last week.

READ MORE: Why China fears the Falun Gong


Lawyers and political scientists gathered at University of Auckland (UOA) last week to discuss the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies about fundamental human rights and freedoms, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Organ harvesting
China has been under fire globally for its alleged unauthorised organ transplants from members of the Falun Gong community.


Though the initial position of the Chinese government was that all the organs were donated, “this was at a time when they [China] didn’t even have donation systems… and they did not have an organs distribution system,” said Professor David Matas, lawyer, author and professor of immigration and refugee law at the University of Manitoba.

While all organs were being found locally and the transplant volume was small, after the prosecution of Falun Gong began, the transplant volume “shot way up,” he said.

China became the leading producer of transplantation in the world, second only to the United States.

Research conducted in 2006 by Professor Matas and his colleagues concluded that “the organs were coming from the practitioners of Falun Gong”, he said.

As a result of his report, the Chinese government quickly shifted its stance and said that “everything that was coming from prisoners sentenced to death and then executed, before their execution they decided to donate their organ as an atonement for their crimes,” said Professor Matas.

Foreign lobbying
In New Zealand strong lobbying from the Chinese Embassy prevented an exhibition of the Chinese spiritual organisation  Falun Gong to be set up in Auckland City.

Lawyer Barry Wilson, president of Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, said he had spent an enormous amount of time at the Auckland City Council trying to persuade them to allow the Falun Gong stand and the demonstrations for the protection of Falun Gong to remain.

“We were up against very strong lobbying from a Chinese Consulate and the Chinese Embassy which did not want that exhibition there,” he said.

The Chinese constitution of 1982 contained the civil liberties that are observed in democratic countries – “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom from arbitrary arrest,” he said.

When Xi Jinping became president, he also brought his “clearly expressed opposition for liberal values”.

“In his speeches he has spoken of the dangers of the liberal ideas like civil liberties, constitution rights, the dangers they pose for Communist Party rule,” he said.

In China, there is no separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature – “courts and judges are subject to political direction,” he said.

Ruling by law
“What China needs is lawyers as cogs in its economic development machine, but it needs lawyers to rule by law, not keep the rulers in check through the rule of law,” he said.

Wilson said: “They [Falun Gong] are always interesting… its organisation and its events well deserve support.”

China has also been using various means to infiltrate foreign countries to exercise its soft power on them – the Confucius Institute (CI) is one such organisation, says director Doris Lui in her documentary movie, In The Name of Confucius. 

The documentary claimed CI was an “infiltration organisation”.

The Chinese government founded the institute in 2004 to teach foreigners the language and culture of China.

The documentary has been a strong critic of the CCP over its alleged violations of human rights, particularly against the Falun Gong community.

In August, the free screening of the movie was set to air in University of Auckland, but the airing was withdrawn at the last minute.

The University of Auckland, University of Canterbury and University of Wellington in New Zealand have ties with CI.

The CI, which is controlled by the Office of Chinese Language Council Internationl (Hanban) prevents its teachers from teaching Cantonese or Hokkien.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Media freedom commentators condemn Nauru ‘gag’ actions

Television New Zealand Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver talks to media in Nauru yesterday following her release after being detained by police for almost four hours. Image: RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Morning Report

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrived today for the leader’s retreat at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru where she is expected to ask for details about the detention of TVNZ journalist Barbara Dreaver yesterday.

Dreaver, who is there to cover the Forum, was interviewing a refugee outside a restaurant when she was picked up by police.

She says they asked for her visa, told her she was breaching her conditions and cancelled her accreditation for the Pacific Islands Forum.

LISTEN: RNZ Morning Report

It is part of a wider pattern of restricting media coverage across the Pacific.

Sally Round is among a team of RNZ Pacific reporters who have been covering Nauru for many years.


Professor David Robie is the director of the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology.

They talk to Susie Ferguson.

Both commentators criticised the media restrictions and obstruction by Nauruan authorities.

“There is nothing like being on the ground in a place when you are covering it – you get the firsthand view of everything,” Round said.

Having the Forum in Nauru presented the first opportunity for many years for journalists to be on the ground to independent reporting of the country.

There is no independent media on the island.

“We were building up to this with the ban on the ABC participating. It’s a clear pattern that’s being going on,” said Dr Robie.

“In fact, I’d say there has been erosion of peace freedom in the Pacific steadily over the last five years – ironically over the same period of the detention centres in Nauru and on Manus.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Controversial ‘Confucius’ doco gets mixed response at NZ universities

In The Name Of Confucius trailer for the 52-minute documentary.

A Chinese government-sponsored cultural and education programme offers Mandarin lessons around the world. But a new film raises questions about a darker side of the Confucius Institutes, reports Rahul Bhattarai of Asia Pacific Journalism.

Chinese-born Canadian film director Doris Liu has had her visa to China denied but has never faced a direct threat or interference from the Beijing government over her controversial documentary In the Name of Confucius screened in Auckland last month.

Her visa to China has been rejected because of her investigative work, she told Asia Pacific Report.

Her documentary criticises Chinese policy and political influence through the multibillion dollar Chinese government-supported Confucius Institute programmes attached to 1600 universities and schools across the globe.

READ MORE: In The Name of Confucius

Three universities in New Zealand have ties with CI – University of Auckland (UOA), Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Victoria University of Wellington.


AUT and Victoria University welcomed the screening of the documentary.

But the University of Auckland cancelled its public screening on the day of the event – just hours before the documentary was due to be screened.

“I had already been rejected for a Chinese visa to enter China because of my journalism before making this film,” film maker Liu said.

Recorded, threatened
However, she added that during her interviews in one of the Canadian institutes, the Confucius Institute director had video recorded her and threatened that she would report her back to Beijing.

“The director used her smartphone to film me conducting an interview with the school board representatives,” Liu said.

“She told me that she would report back to Hanban in Beijing about my media presence.”

Liu added that “the interview didn’t end happily as the school representatives stopped the interview and they all walked away.

“After that I couldn’t get access to any Canadian Confucius Institutes, except for a couple of telephone interviews.

“I could imagine that Hanban informed all its Chinese directors working at the Canadian Confucius Institute not to accept my interview requests.”

Suppressing teachings
While talking to Mack Smith of 95bFM, Dr Catherine Churchman of Victoria University said about the institute policy, “you have to teach Mandarin, you are not allowed teach Cantonese or Hokkien”, or any of the other Chinese languages and “you have to teach in the simplified Chinese characters set”.

Dr Churchman said the main reason the institutes did not allow the teaching of traditional Chinese was to “suppress people” from being able to read documents from Taiwan or Hong Kong, or many other overseas countries.

Until the 1980s, the Chinese diaspora, including in New Zealand, used traditional Chinese characters to publish their literature.

Liu said that many of the texts published in China, including the literature from the Chinese Communist Party and its foreign affairs, were only in traditional Chinese.

Suppressing the traditional Chinese was a form of “censorship that the Chinese Communist Party has over things written inside China”, she said.

“They [CI] have a lot of influence over the institute itself, they pay for half of it usually, and they pay quiet a lot of money,” she said.

Liu claimed that Victoria University received about “half a million” dollars in 2016.

Institute ‘controlled’
The Confucius Institute was controlled by Hanban, which was controlled by the Chinese Ministry of Education, she said.

While the ministry might not necessarily have had direct influence over the institute, it did provide rules about what was allowed to be taught in the institute.

A Chinese protest placard among several against the Confucius Institutes on display at the end of the Auckland film screening. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

After Auckland University cancelled the public film screening, an official statement by
Associate Professor Phillipa Malpas said: “The event was prematurely advertised as being open to the public before it had been approved and confirmed by my faculty.

“It was subsequently approved for screening to University of Auckland staff and students.”

AUT screened the documentary at a public event on July 26 with a packed auditorium, including an Asia Pacific Report journalist present.

However, Alison Sykora, head of communications in AUT, said the Chinese Vice-Consul-General spoke to the university before the screening of the movie. The Vice-Consul had been given an invitation but AUT had not yet received a reply.

Chinese soft power
The documentary shows how China has been using CI in order to influence foreign countries through soft-power initiatives.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former chief of the Asia Pacific Canadian Security Intelligence Service, says in the film: “CI were used to manipulate not only the academic world, where they were implanted, but to also emanate more influence outside of the campus as well.”

The documentary says that the CI is an “infiltration organisation” that was founded in 2004 by the Chinese government under the guise of teaching foreign students Chinese culture and language.

Institute teachers were also forced to sign a contract that they were not members of the banned and persecuted spiritual group Falun Gong.

Last November, the Chinese government pressured the Japanese government in an attempt to cancel an international conference due to the planned showing of the documentary, but in spite of the pressure the screening went ahead.

The film was shown in an international human rights conference in Tokyo, receiving a good response from the global audience.

In The Name of Confucius has been shown 57 times in 12 countries.

Film maker Doris Liu said that the movie had been well received, with review ratings of 8.7 out of 10 on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and 4.8 out of 5 on Facebook.

Rahul Bhattarai is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG Facebook ban threat casts shadow over Pacific media freedom

Papua New Guinea threatened to temporarily ban Facebook earlier this year. With the APEC conference looming in November, the question remains whether this was an attack on freedom of speech. Jessica Marshall of Asia-Pacific Journalism reports in a two-part series on the Pacific internet.

In March, it was revealed that the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested millions of Facebook profiles.

The breach, thought to be one of Facebook’s biggest, reportedly used the data to influence both the United States 2016 presidential election and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom.

In the aftermath, Facebook announced a commitment “to reducing the spread of false news on Facebook,” by removing false accounts and using independent third-party factcheckers to curb fake news on the site.

The effectiveness of this new policy remains to be seen.

The revelation of the Cambridge Analytica scandal lead to the Papua New Guinean government threat in May that it would ban the social network for a month in the country.

Communications Minister Sam Basil was reported by news media as saying the ban decision was an attempt to enforce the Cyber Crime Act 2016.

A horde of PNG “ban on Facebook” stories on Google, but stories on PNG’s subsequent back off in the proposal are hard to find. Image: PMC

“The Act has already been passed, so what I’m trying to do is to ensure the law is enforced accordingly… We cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country.” Basil told the Post-Courier.


Difficult to track
According to The Guardian, Basil had raised concerns about the protection of the privacy of Papua New Guinea’s Facebook users. He had claimed that it was difficult to track those who had posted defamatory comments on Facebook using “ghost profiles”.

Basil later denied in the media that he had said he would ban Facebook, but the Post-Courier stood by its report which had sparked of the flurry of stories and speculation. So far no ban has actually taken place.

Papua New Guinea is not the only country to have banned the social media site. Facebook is already blocked in authoritarian countries like China, Iran and North Korea.

In March, Sri Lanka blocked the site along with Viber and WhatsApp for nine days, believing it to be the cause of hate speech and violence.

Facebook was also condemned for allowing hate speech to become prominent in Myanmar during the Rohingya crisis earlier in the year.

The platform, according to Reuters, was claimed to have played an important role in the spread of hate speech when Rohingya refugees were fleeing their homeland to Bangladesh.

Other countries have made attempts to combat trolling and fake news, New Zealand included.

In 2015, New Zealand made cyberbullying illegal in an attempt to curb teen suicide. The law, passed in tandem with an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961, was designed to ensure that cyberbullies would face up to two years’ imprisonment.

‘Fake news’ conviction
In April this year, the Malaysian courts convicted its first person under a new fake news law. The Danish citizen was charged after he posted a video claiming that police were not quick to act after receiving distress calls regarding the shooting of a Palestinian lecturer.

Questions regarding free speech have circulated since the Basil reportedly made the announcement.

Only 11 percent of the Papua New Guinean population have access to the internet. The site, for those with the ability to use it, has become a news source in a place where media freedom is increasingly threatened.

PNG “news” blogs have proliferated.

While Freedom House’s most recent report on press freedom says that the press in Papua New Guinea is free, the organisation is quick to note that this freedom has become worse over recent years.

Freedom of speech, information and the press are all guaranteed and inalienable rights in Papua New Guinean law due to Section 46 of the country’s constitution.

What has caused problems, however, for the press is political pressure and violence. Over the years, journalists have been “detained without charge, and their video footage was destroyed”.

Three female journalists were sexually assaulted in 2014, the report states.

Reporters Without Borders also reported police violence against journalists in 2016. It said in a media statement that one NBC journalist had been assaulted by three police officers until another officer intervened. Others had been attacked by a plainclothes officer.

Facebook as news source
In the era of fake news, social media plays a huge role in how the people get their news.
According to Pew Research, two-thirds of American adults got their news through social media in 2017.

A report by the ABC said “more Papua New Guineans have access to social media than ever”.

“Facebook is… being cited as an important hub for news, and the audience is larger than other news websites with 53 percent of weekly users reporting the use of online social media compared to the two main newspapers’ websites,” the report said.

Daniel Bastard, Asia-Pacific director of Reporters Without Borders, said that blocking Facebook “would deprive nearly a million internet users” from news and information.

“Instead of resorting to censorship, the Communications Minister should encourage online platforms to be more transparent and responsible about content regulation.”

There is still concern about the upcoming APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in Port Moresby in November and a possible Facebook ban’s impact.

Paul Barker, director of the Institute of National Affairs, told the Post-Courier “It would be a travesty if PNG sought to close down Facebook during the APEC month… as it would be both an attack on embracing technology, undermining the information era and mechanisms for accountability, but also damaging business and welfare.”

Jessica Marshall is an AUT student journalist on the postgraduate Asia Pacific Journalism course.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PMC Seminar: Okinawa’s media response to US military presence

Event date and time: 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 – 16:30 18:00

The US military presence in Okinawa has been at the center of Okinawa’s politics, its relations with the central government in Tokyo and the US-Japan relations since 1945. The US bases and facilities occupy 20 percent of the island of Okinawa, accounting for 71 percent of the total US military presence in Japan. This has contributed to a strong local pacific movement supported by Okinawa’s local media which have kept a critical coverage against the Japanese government and the US bases. Amid reoccurring incidents involving US military personnel, accidents and the most recent developments around the relocation of Futenma Base, there are complaints about oppression of freedom of expression, limited public access to information and mainland Japanese media’s bias towards Okinawa. The two local newspapers, Ryukyu Shimpo and The Okinawa Times, have made it their mission to address these issues that are rarely covered in mainstream Japanese media. Dr Evangelia Papoutsaki will talk about the strong anti-base editorial stance of the Okinawan newspapers while providing a wider historical and current context of their reporting.

Who:  Dr Evangelia Papoutsaki
Associate Professor
Communication Studies, Unitec Institute of Technology
Auckland, New Zealand

When: Wednesday, 19 September 2018, 4.30-6pm 

Where: WG703 , Sir Paul Reeves Building, Auckland University of Technology
City Campus 


PMC Facebook event


Report by Pacific Media Centre

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vanuatu plans cyber crime law to target Facebook ‘false claims’

Cyber crime law planned for Vanuatu … “people are using Facebook for political gain, attacking and making false statements or allegations.” Image: File

Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, the Minister responsible for Telecommunications, has informed Parliament that a cyber crime bill currently being developed will address the increasing issues and concerns regarding social media, especially Facebook.

He made the statement during the Ordinary Parliament sitting when responding to concerns raised by Malekula Member of Parliament, Sato Kilman regarding allegations made against him on the popular social media site.

MP Kilman referred to a post allegedly made by a fake ID that was circulated on Facebook, carrying allegations that the former Vanuatu Prime Minister had at least six bank accounts in Hong Kong with a total amount of 8 million euros.

“There are allegations that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is responsible for the post,” MP Kilman alleged.

“Does the government have resources to check such allegations before posting in public and tarnishing someone’s reputation?

“Can the police investigate if such allegations are true or not?

“You can apologise later but by then the damage has been done, a person’s credibility has been ruined. That happens to me but am sure it can happen to any of us.”


Emerging issues
MP Kilman then asked the Prime Minister if the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) can use its resources to track down whoever is responsible for such posts.

In response, Prime Minister Salwai said the government was aware of emerging issues regarding Facebook.

“The government is working on a Cyber Crime Act, which will likely be ready by the next Parliament session to address this issue because Facebook has gone beyond [control],” said Prime Minister Salwai.

He said Facebook was not only a national but an international issue.

“It was the first agenda discussed during the Commonwealth Leaders meeting in London because people are using it to create a lot of social problems and attack people without substantiating information,” said Prime Minister Salwai.

He added that the issue was common in the Pacific and also in Vanuatu, people were using Facebook for political gain, attacking and making false statements or allegations about others.

“I think it is about time we should address this issue and as the Minister responsible for Telecommunications I want to announce to the House that the Cyber Crime Bill will come before this Parliament so we can control the use of social media.

“It has come to an extent where people feel free to say anything about others.”

Fake ID
On the other hand, PM Salwai said social media, especially Facebook, was a good communication tool but people were using it in the wrong way.

In a supplementary comment to the Prime Minister’s response, Foreign Affairs Minister Ralph Regenvanu confirmed seeing the post which he alleged was posted by a fake ID and not him as claimed.

Minister Regenvanu also confirmed allegations made by an adviser of a MP that he was the person behind the fake ID was false.

Minister Regenvanu said that out of all members of the House, being a regular Facebook user he had been the subject of many false allegations.

“That is what we should expect as MPs, we become figures of public scrutiny, you will find a lot of false allegations against me in Facebook,” he said.

“For example, they alleged I signed an agreement for the Chinese to build a military base here.

“I agree with the Prime Minister that we should have more control but we have to have some line so we don’t have too much control on media because freedom of expression is a constitutional right.

“We also have media freedom so we have to draw a fine line between unsubstantiated stories and balanced stories.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have that in Facebook so we have to look into that.”

The Pacific Media Centre republishes Vanuatu Daily Post stories with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media