Winston Peters (Photo: Getty Images)
Winston Peters (Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 29, 2020

The Bulletin: China furious at Hong Kong extradition suspension

Winston Peters (Photo: Getty Images)
Winston Peters (Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: China furious at NZ over Hong Kong extradition suspension, woman says police haven’t started investigation into sexual assault almost a year later, and patients reportedly refusing Covid-19 tests.

A significant update in New Zealand’s relationship with China: Yesterday foreign minister Winston Peters announced that this country would be suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, on the basis of new security laws passed in the city that erode the protections of citizens, and the independence of the judiciary, reports One News. In practice, what the new laws theoretically mean is that a suspect could have been extradited to Hong Kong, and then on to China itself.

Expressing the “deep concerns” of the New Zealand government, Peters said “China’s passage of its new national security legislation has eroded rule-of-law principles, undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ framework that underpins Hong Kong’s unique status, and gone against commitments China made to the international community.” On Newstalk ZB, National’s foreign affairs spokesperson Simon Bridges presented a united front, saying the party was in complete agreement – the main point of difference was that where the government had concerns about the national security law, he condemned it.

The reaction from the Chinese embassy has been one of anger, saying it is a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs.” Here is the full statement, and it defends the new national security laws as necessary “to ensure the steady and sustained implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.” As for the diplomatic relationship, the statement said “any attempt to pressure China on the issue of Hong Kong will not succeed. The Chinese side urges the New Zealand side to abide by the international law and the basic norms governing international relations, immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any forms to avoid further harm to China-New Zealand relations.”

The other aspect of the government’s moves yesterday was to change how military and dual use exports to Hong Kong would be treated – now they’ll be looked at the same way as such exports to China would be. As Politik reports, there could be wider ramifications for exports – particularly around beef, about which there has been speculation recently in Chinese state media that Australian exports should be replaced with New Zealand’s. MFAT has also updated their SafeTravel guidance around the new national security law. Should New Zealand have done more for the people of Hong Kong? Peters told One News that cabinet had not considered the idea of giving them safe haven in New Zealand, as several other countries have offered in recent weeks.

An exciting development for The Spinoff: We’ve now got merch for sale! You can check out everything we’ve got on offer here, but among other things we’ve got tea towels, pens, coffee cups, tote bags and T-shirts for sale. You can also buy copies of The Spinoff Book, which we released at the end of last year, featuring dozens of the best pieces of writing to appear on the site over our first five years. And of course, Spinoff Members get a discount on all of it, which you can sign up for here.

A woman who laid a complaint of sexual assault in October last year alleges that police have done nothing with it since, reports Emily Writes for The Spinoff. The survivor was attacked in her own home, and she has cerebral palsy. She says she has made contact with police many times since it happened, but correspondence she received back from them makes it clear that they haven’t even assigned a detective to the case yet.

The state of Covid-19 testing is in a bit of trouble, with problems in getting people to take them. Radio NZ’s Rowan Quinn reports on a survey of doctors that shows many patients are refusing to take tests, even if it had been recommended. There are real fears here that complacency could set in completely, and that there could be silent spread as a result. In total, the target of 4000 tests a day still isn’t being reached either.

Some interesting updated numbers on the wage subsidy: Newshub reports that around 13,000 employers have voluntarily come forward to MSD to offer a refund after their downturn wasn’t as bad as expected, and around 10,000 of those had since followed through. But 750 employers have had to do it the hard way, and will be required to pay it back after an audit or investigation was carried out. MSD says the vast majority of employers have been doing the right thing, and as yet there have been no prosecutions.

The Greens could be about to get a political win on managed isolation fees for returnees, which look likely to be scaled back. Justin Giovannetti reports that while last week it looked like there would be across-the-board charges for everyone, now a much more scaled back version is likely to be announced, limited only to those who go overseas on business trips and travellers. The Greens may have been required to get legislation on the issue through parliament, and it appears they’ve secured a deal. Of course, the definitions of these categories (if this is in fact what gets announced) will need to be closely scrutinised, but in general terms the impulse seems to be not punishing people who got caught in the pandemic through no fault of their own.

In the wake of a slave trader being sentenced to 11 years in prison, fears are being aired that not enough is being done to prevent migrant worker exploitation. Joseph Auga Matamata was convicted of human trafficking and slavery earlier this week in Napier, with one victim as young as 12. Radio NZ’s Harry Lock has reported on widespread reforms made by the government to crack down on such practices, including a new visa that will allow workers to leave their employer and remain in the country. But FIRST Union, which does a lot of work in this area, is concerned that prosecutions for breaches will remain rare.

National’s internal polling has leaked from the caucus meeting after all, as had been expected by all and sundry. And as expected, the numbers in the internal poll are much better for the party – though still not really close to overtaking the parties of government. Radio NZ had a story about it, with National purportedly on 36%, Labour just under 50%, the Greens on 6%, and NZ First and Act both on 3%. Anyway, there’ll be a Colmar-Brunton poll later this week which will give a more verifiable picture of where things stand.

Meanwhile party leader Judith Collins was caught out either lying or joking recently, when she said in a speech that nobody had escaped from prison while she was corrections minister – in fact about 20 people did. Under questioning from reporters, she said it was obviously a joke, as she had raised her eyebrows while saying it. So Stewart Sowman-Lund went through her maiden speech as leader and found all of the other previously hidden jokes in it.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Aaron Hendry writes about how common it is for young people who find themselves homeless to be left out in the cold. Jean Teng writes about a restaurant that was permanently changed by lockdown, with delivery offerings becoming a vital part of what they now do. Toby Manhire has put together a quiz asking the surprisingly difficult question of whether you can match eight parties and their slogans. Read this afterwards – Toby Morris has reviewed the design and branding of every party hoarding that he can get eyes on. And there’s a brand new episode of Gone By Lunchtime, covering another frankly dreadful week in politics.

For a feature today, a really good piece about sport and teenage regrets. Novelist Brannavan Gnanalingam has written on Newsroom about a time playing cricket in high school, in which he bowled a bouncer at a fellow student and nearly killed them in the process. The incident is part of it, but equally relevant to the piece is how the moment stuck with both for a long time to come. Here’s an excerpt:

I can offer no excuse for my non-response. I’m interested in the way I’d spun narratives to assuage my guilt. How my response to a violent act that I’d committed, was to scramble for ways to justify it. I told myself that he was fine, so why did I have to dwell on it. I believed what people told me, about his lack of helmet or the fact it was just cricket. He didn’t matter – it became all about me. This article, is still, all about me.

My lack of proper apology and checking up on him could arguably be tied to some sort of performative Kiwi maleness, and some misplaced emphasis on stoicism. Or it could be because I didn’t know how to express my opinions or emotions properly. I grasped at all of these straws, as if they gave me absolution. But in reality – and more simply – I was just an arsehole.

Major League Baseball resuming was meant to signal some normality coming back to the US, but it is already looking in doubt. Forbes reports that an outbreak of about a dozen cases inside the Miami Marlins means that they’ve had two of their games postponed, just days after the season resumed. If any more teams go down, it’s not exactly clear how the integrity of the competition could be maintained. Once again, it’s hard to shake the feeling of how lucky we are to have sport going on here.

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