New Zealand politicians and their family members have reportedly been tracked by a data company with links to the Chinese military.
A leak from the company, Zhenhua Data, reveals the classified Chinese database has profiles for former Prime Minister John Key’s son, as well as current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s parents and sister, according to leak entries seen by NZME.
“Our New Zealand politicians are being targeted on a grand scale,” Chinese politics expert Professor Anne-Marie Brady told the publication.
Paul Buchanan, a commentator in intelligence, told NZME the data company could be “looking for vulnerabilities”.
According to the report, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters’ children have been tracked, as well as National MP Todd McClay’s mother. McClay was Trade Minister under the previous Key Government.
The listings include details such as town of residence, social media account details and job titles. Several of the listings are out of date, including a picture of Key’s son as an early teen and profiles on now irrelevant politicians’ partners, according to the NZ Herald. The last entries were in 2018.
Prof Brady, from the University of Canterbury, has long been suspicious of Chinese interference in New Zealand. She’s previously warned MPs about what she’s described as a foreign interference agenda by Chinese President Xi Jinping to bring the Chinese diaspora in New Zealand “under control”.
In a 2017 paper Magic Weapons, she warned of a “concerted foreign-influence campaign” by the Chinese Communist Party.
She suspected her paper criticising China led to her property being burgled in 2018.
No one should be surprised that the Chinese are watching us and doing so through publicly available information.
The real mass surveillance that occurs in NZ is by the NZ Government and the NSA, so let’s not get into a tizzy fit screaming at China for a snooping that our own Government and America does far more insidiously.
The issue that is most concerning was the nature of the information and the purpose for that information.
China wanting to know how other countries work is one thing, using that information to blackmail or manipulate for their interest is completely another, and the personal details of people they were watching suggests they were looking for vulnerabilities.
Again, none of this should actually be of any surprise and if we are going to get aggressive about it, we should start with our own Government and the NSA 5 Eyes arrangement.
It’s difficult to get worked up about this when America is doing it on a far larger scale and one genuinely has to ask if this is blood in the water to stir resentment against China as America inches closer to some type of military confrontation in the South China Sea.
Look, I have zero time for China, they are an authoritarian Communist regime that put minorities in gulags, harvest body organs from dissidents and has total control over the media.
They aren’t our mates.
But America’s mass surveillance powers eclipse publicly available dossiers.
Let’s ask why we are being told this as opposed to it happening.
We don’t want to be controlled by Beijing OR Washington.
UPDATE: TVNZs excellent Pacific Correspondent, Barbara Dreaver, has delivered a very interesting exclusive regarding the Pacific names on China’s watch list. Many of those named inside the Pacific Islands don’t have any social media footprint. That means the information must have been gathered by spies inside the Islands themselves. Again, this is all to be expected but it suggests a level of total surveillance dominance inside the Pacific Islands that risks our interaction with them.
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