Labour candidate Naisi Chen outraged to be cited in Anne-Marie Brady's China paper

A Labour list candidate has lashed out at an expert on Chinese politics who accused her of having "close connections" to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Naisi Chen told the Justice Select Committee she felt "hurt" by being mentioned in Canterbury University Professor Anne-Marie Brady's Magic Weapons paper. 

She told MPs on the committee: "You can't help but wonder how she managed to draw all these conclusions with sometimes no facts at all."

In it, Chen - who stood as a candidate for Labour in the 2017 election and is a member of the New Zealand China Council - was accused of having "close United Front connections" - an agency Brady described as promoting the ideals of the CCP to control outside forces.

"When I was named in that paper in 2017 - and when my loyalty to the country I grew up in and was completely schooled in and have represented very proudly, was put into question - to be honest, that was quite hurtful."

When asked to respond to Chen telling MPs she felt hurt, Brady told Newshub: "She's entitled to her feelings, and we heard her."

Brady attempted to highlight the policies of China's "expanded foreign influence activities" in the era of President Xi Jinping in her 2017 paper. It examines the extent to which New Zealand is "being targeted by China's new influence agenda".

Naisi Chen with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Naisi Chen with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Twitter / Naisi Chen

Under the subheading 'China's Political Influence Activities in New Zealand', Brady mentioned Chen, along with other members of the Chinese community in New Zealand, who have entered the political realm.

She alleged National's ethnic Chinese MP Jian Yang, Labour's Raymond Huo, and ACT's Kenneth Wang "have had varying degrees of relations with United Front organisations in New Zealand and the PRC [People's Republic of China] embassy".

"An important Xi era policy on overseas Chinese work is the goal to encourage the Chinese diaspora to become more active in the politics of their host countries," Brady wrote.

She pointed to controversy around Yang admitting in 2017 that he had trained Chinese spies so they could monitor other countries' communications - but refused to say whether this included New Zealand.

She then mentioned Chen directly: "Labour have selected another ethnic Chinese candidate in the 2017 elections, who also has close United Front connections - Ms Chen Naisi, a law student at the University of Auckland."

Chen told the select committee: "Most of the people in that paper are actual New Zealand citizens, or at least permanent residents, which means they have a right to participate in this country's democratic process."

National MP Mark Mitchell told Brady he was concerned about the accusations against "a young lady that's been here since five years old", adding: "I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling allegiance back to your country."

Anne-Marie Brady at the Justice Select Committee.
Anne-Marie Brady at the Justice Select Committee. Photo credit: Newshub

He pointed to his strong ancestral connection to Ireland, and said it's "a very dangerous argument when we start dragging whole communities into some type of political debate, and I don't like it and don't feel comfortable with it".

Brady then slammed Mitchell after he admitted he hadn't read her paper, and told him: "I'm not a journalist - I'm not required to consult sources for alternative opinion."

"If you're going to research foreign interference in New Zealand from China, then I would expect MPs have done the proper homework," Brady said, adding that Mitchell should refer to the list of sources provided at the end of her paper.

Chen said the relationship between China and New Zealand "should be one that is managed with lots of caution because we need to recognise that there are substantial differences in our values and our political systems".

"I do appreciate that anything in the diplomatic world is an intricate web of interests, and it needs to be about finding balance."