China-Watchers Sound Alarm Over Harassment of New Zealand Professor

Nearly 160 China-watchers worldwide have signed an open letter this week in support of New Zealand academic Anne-Marie Brady.
China-Watchers Sound Alarm Over Harassment of New Zealand Professor
People's Liberation Army soldiers participate in a ceremony in a file photo. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen
Almost 160 international experts on China-related matters have signed an open letter in support of New Zealand academic Anne-Marie Brady, with some saying that the professor is being administratively harassed by the University of Canterbury for her work documenting the Chinese regime’s influence operations.
The letter, published on Oct. 7, was organized in support of Brady as she faces a review of her work by the university. It's addressed to the University of Canterbury’s deputy vice chancellor of research, Ian Wright, and denounces the review, while calling on her employer to apologize.
The research paper (pdf), titled “Holding a Pen in One Hand, Gripping a Gun in the Other,” is an investigation by the professor into how China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) exploited civilian channels for military purposes in New Zealand.
Brady specializes in Chinese domestic and foreign politics at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Her name rose to prominence after she published a research paper in September 2017 called "Magic Weapons" (pdf), which details how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has planned to achieve worldwide influence. The paper used New Zealand as a case study.

In her latest paper, Brady wrote that the CCP “is preparing China for what the Chinese leadership believes is an inevitable war."

“The New Zealand government needs to work with businesses and universities to devise a strategy to prevent the transfer of military-end-use technology to China,” the research states.

It also claims that a number of universities in New Zealand have links to the Chinese regime’s 5G telecommunications company Huawei, and that some academics have participated in Beijing’s well-financed recruitment program, the Thousand Talents Plan, which has come under close U.S. scrutiny over possible threats to national security.

The Thousand Talents Plan was rolled out by Beijing in 2008, and is China’s most prominent state-run recruitment program. Hundreds of similar operations exist at the central and local government levels, aiming to attract promising overseas Chinese and foreign experts in the fields of science and technology to fuel China’s innovation drive. The CCP plays a central role in executing the recruitment plan.

Brady's report also pointed to the University of Canterbury's partnership with Northwestern Polytechnical University to establish the Human Interface Tech Lab. Northwestern is designated as a "high-risk" institution involved in extensive military research, according to the Australian Strategy Policy Institute's University Tracker.

“By accessing universities or tech companies in states with an advanced technology sector like New Zealand, the PLA can get a foothold within the international network of scholars working on a given subject area,” the paper states.

“New Zealand commercial and educational links with PLA-affiliated organizations and individuals raise national security, as well as reputational, ethical, and intellectual property risks. Some of these links potentially breach New Zealand’s international commitments and domestic laws.”

People's Liberation Army soldiers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on May 21, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)
People's Liberation Army soldiers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on May 21, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)
A review of the report was ordered by university Vice Chancellor Cheryl de la Rey, after Brady presented the paper to New Zealand’s parliament in the summer. According to Wright, de la Rey said the paper has “manifest errors of fact and misleading inferences.”

The long list of signatories to the China watchers' letter includes China academics and researchers, such as Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Louisa Greve, director of global advocacy at the Uyghur Human Rights Project; Luke de Pulford, coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China; and Benedict Rogers, chief executive and founder of Hong Kong Watch and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.

“We are shocked to read that your Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Wright, gave a statement to the press confirming that the university was entertaining the complaints, and giving them currency by explaining that they allege that the paper contains ‘manifest errors of fact and misleading inferences,’” the letter states.

It describes Brady’s work as “groundbreaking” and said it has had “profound impact internationally."

“We, who know this area, can see no manifest errors or misleading inferences based on the evidenced material provided in the report. The paper does not make inferences. People who study it may draw some, but that does not mean the paper made them, misleading or otherwise.

“[Brady] has been the target of a harassment campaign and threatening menace because of the serious implications of her important research.

“We ask that you issue a prompt and full apology to Professor Brady on behalf of the University of Canterbury for not rejecting the complaints against Professor Brady and instead referring the complainants to the normal way of disagreeing with a paper—publishing their criticism. Professor Wright should publicly apologize for allowing his statement to give credence to the complaints, whether or not he intended that."

Anders Corr, founder of Corr Analytics, a political risk analysis firm. (Courtesy of Corr Analytics)
Anders Corr, founder of Corr Analytics, a political risk analysis firm. (Courtesy of Corr Analytics)

U.S.-based signatory Anders Corr, principal of Corr Analytics, told The Epoch Times that Wright, who has commented negatively in the media about Brady, is “an underwater volcano expert-turned-generalist and has absolutely no expertise in Chinese politics.” He suggested that the letter’s signatories, who are almost all China experts, are the “only ones with the competency to judge her work.”

“Yet Professor Brady, who is an expert, is not allowed to respond publicly to his public charges per a legal gag by the university,” Corr said. 

“In effect, Ian Wright is a hatchet man smearing Professor Brady's good name while apparently looking for an excuse to fire her for a paper that points out an inconvenient truth: New Zealand's government and universities are in bed with China's military and could very well be violating domestic and international law while putting world peace at risk.”

Brady’s lawyers didn't immediately respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

An unnamed spokesperson for the University of Canterbury (UC) told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it is "responding to four formal complaints from academic staff at other universities and at UC, challenging the truthfulness of claims in a published article by Professor Brady."

"UC is taking these complaints seriously and has initiated an academic review to test the veracity of the claims made in the published article, as reputations of academics are in question," the spokesperson said, adding that the university "affirms its support for the 'freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas, and to state controversial or unpopular opinions,' as specified in the Education Act."

Separately, the China Democracy Foundation is crowd-financing NZ$20,000 ($13,278) in legal support for Brady. So far, NZ$5,810 ($3,857) has been donated from New Zealand, Canada, Britain, Australia, Hong Kong, Belgium, Germany, Japan, and the United States.
It's not the first time Brady has faced harassment for her work on Chinese influence; in 2018, she said she was harassed and her home and office were burglarized.
Mimi Nguyen Ly and Eva Fu contributed to this report.