Chinese spies behind mysterious break-ins, professor claims

  • 20/09/2018

A university professor who believes she's been targeted by Chinese spies has reportedly had her office and home checked for listening devices.

Anne-Marie Brady, a politics professor at the University of Canterbury, specialises in Chinese politics. Her home and office have been broken into a number of times over the past year, NZME reports, and police have enlisted the help of both Interpol and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) in cracking the case.

While the SIS refused to comment, NZME said university staff confirmed the sweep. Nanette Cormack, deputy secretary of the Tertiary Education Union, said it reminded her of New Zealand's most famous espionage incident.

"Obviously the Rainbow Warrior comes to mind, in terms of another country coming to New Zealand and breaking laws to try and stop something they don't like."

Prof Brady's home was broken into last December, and in February crooks took three laptops and phones, but ignored other valuables.

She believes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is using New Zealand as a "test zone" for its campaigns of influence, which aim to further its political and economic agendas.

Anne-Marie Brady.
Anne-Marie Brady. Photo credit: University of Canterbury

Its activities in New Zealand "not only threaten New Zealand's sovereignty, but also are undermining the integrity of the New Zealand political system and the rights of ethnic-Chinese New Zealanders to the freedoms of speech, association, and religion", she wrote in a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Democracy.

Former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has praised Prof Brady's work.

Last year, Prof Brady said the CCP had cultivated close ties with a number of current and former National Party MPs, including Don Brash, Dame Jenny Shipley, Ruth Richardson, Judith Collins, Pansy Wong and John Key. Last year National MP Jian Yang admitted teaching Chinese spies how to speak English before he moved to New Zealand, but denied being one himself.

And in May, a Senator told the US Congress the CCP had "gotten very close to or inside the political core of both New Zealand and Australia", and a former CIA analyst said New Zealand's future as part of the Five Eyes alliance should be questioned.

Spokesman for Academic Freedom Aotearoa Jack Heineman, also a professor at the University of Canterbury, said the break-ins are "taking a terrible toll" on Prof Brady.

"Academics have a statutory obligation to speak truth to power," he told NZME. "The point is, it's power you're speaking truth to. And because it's powerful it has ability to push back - legally or illegally."