Pieces of work that led David Seymour to compare Golriz Ghahraman to Chinese President Xi Jinping

On Thursday, ACT leader David Seymour compared Golriz Ghahraman's writing to a speech of Chinese President Xi Jinping - two pieces of work Newshub can now reveal.

On Sean Plunket's Magic Talk afternoons show, Seymour expressed concern about agreements like the Christchurch Call leading to greater censorship and authorities being empowered to punish people on the basis of what others believe is offensive.

"People might argue about what the facts are [in a case], and that is why we have juries, but you can only be punished using the power of the state if you are proved to be guilty based on fact," Seymour told Plunket.

"Once you start talking about speech and opinion, well really the question is whether or not the things you say are popular at the time."

He singled out Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Ghahraman as not supporting the view that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" and giving the effect of insulting words too much significance.

"I just think that Golriz Ghahraman is completely wrong, I don't know if she understands what she is saying, but she is a real menace to freedom in this country."

Golriz Ghahraman, David Seymour and Xi Jinping.
Golriz Ghahraman, David Seymour and Xi Jinping. Photo credit: Facebook / Newshub / Getty

Comparison to Xi Jinping

Seymour then went on to compare Ghahraman to Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying he had looked at two pieces of their work and found it "very difficult to tell the difference".

"I actually looked at a couple of paragraphs, one paragraph from each, I tried to guess which was which, and Xi Jinping actually looked like a more liberal guy on this issue than Golriz Ghahraman."

The work that Seymour compared was a May Stuff opinion piece by Ghahraman and 2015 remarks by Jinping at a World Internet Conference.

The phrases highlighted by Seymour from within Ghahraman's text read: "Free speech, equality, and democracy...are easily threatened by the incitement of hatred against targeted groups.

"We know that speech, fake news, and abuse lead to very real violence...Everyone has [an] interest in ensuring harmful and abusive content is appropriately regulated."

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron met last week to tackle terrorism on social media.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron met last week to tackle terrorism on social media. Photo credit: Getty

In the rest of the article, she praised the Government's review of hate speech law to consider protecting groups identified by gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability.

She also criticised current mechanisms to challenge online content and called on the Government to set clearer, more enforced standards.

"Protection against hate speech is currently enforceable through challenges brought by victims to the Human Rights Tribunal, the only recourse being mediation.

"That's fairly impractical and unsafe for most victims or victim groups – and it does nothing to broadly curb violent radicalisation on fringe online platforms."

Golriz's comments were compared with the remarks by Jinping saying: "Freedom and order are both necessary...We should respect internet users' rights to exchange their ideas and express their minds, and we should also build a good order in cyberspace in accordance with law as it will help protect the legitimate rights and interests of all internet users.

"Everyone should abide by the law, with the rights and obligations of parties concerned clearly defined."

Despite the comments promotion of a free internet, the Chinese people's ability to access international media is heavily restricted behind the so-called Great Fire Wall, which blocks citizens from accessing popular Western sites.

It has been described as a "prison" for online users, with the size of the internet police force reported to be more than 2 million. This force is responsible for monitoring chat rooms for dissidence and blocking content.

Ghahraman has been contacted for her response to the comparison.

Andrew Little has ordered a review of hate speech law.
Andrew Little has ordered a review of hate speech law. Photo credit: Getty

Review of hate speech laws

Last month, Justice Minister Andrew Little asked his ministry to work with the Human Rights Commission to look into whether New Zealand's laws sufficiently balance issues of freedom of speech and hate speech.

While laws prohibit the incitement of racial disharmony, Little says the same sanctions don't apply on grounds of religious faith.

Ardern said the review wouldn't lead to people's ability to criticise religious groups being banned, but instead it would consider if enough was being done to stop people threatening violence towards them.