ACT leader David Seymour is demanding an explanation from the Chinese Consulate in New Zealand after it praised the "patriotism" of students in an Auckland University scuffle.
In a letter to the Consulate General Ruan Ping, David Seymour said he was concerned about "what appears to be the consulate interfering in the internal affairs of New Zealand".
It follows a clash between students at the University of Auckland last week, between those for and against a proposed extradition law that would allow people in Hong Kong be extradited to mainland China.
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The Chinese Consulate in New Zealand weighed in, praising the "spontaneous" actions of the students supporting the proposed law, which was suspended in July over mass protests on across the former British colony.
Hong Kong was returned to China from Britain in 1997, with a "one country, two systems" form of governance that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.
Seymour, MP for Epsom, said in the letter he was "interested to learn why the consulate appears to be so blasé about interfering in New Zealand's internal affairs".
"I am certain you will be aware that China is a signatory to the Vienna Convention, and that you are afforded diplomatic immunity in return for accepting a duty that you do not interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving country."
Seymour pointed to a statement by the Consulate General, in which he suggested the situation in Hong Kong was being used under the "pretext of so-called academic freedom and freedom of expression" to "engage in smearing attacks" on the Chinese government.
"It appears that you believe freedom of expression and academic freedom are not important values in and of themselves and can only be enjoyed by those who say things you agree with," Seymour said.
"If the [People's Republic of China] does not feel it can withstand criticism, it may want to ask why that is rather than blaming its critics."
He said the Consulate General's comments "encouraged disruptive and violent behaviour which undermines authorities upholding the rule of law here in New Zealand, and therefore our internal affairs".
Seymour is now demanding answers from the Consulate General, telling him: "I would appreciate your explanation as to whether you feel your recent actions have contravened diplomatic conventions."
Anne-Marie Brady, a professor at Canterbury University who researches Chinese domestic and foreign politics and speaks fluent Mandarin, has warned of the Chinese government's foreign interference agenda.
In a tweet last week, Brady labelled the Consulate General's statement "pretty huge".
She suggested it was "part of a global trend in CCP [Chinese Communist Party] foreign policy under [Chinese President] Xi of undiplomatic behaviour by Chinese diplomats".
In her 2017 paper Magic Weapons, Brady described the United Front, a CCP agency which aims to promote the party's policies and ideals to control outside forces.
The Consulate General's office has been contacted for comment.