Australian journalist Tom Steinfort is defending a promo for his upcoming story for 60 Minutes Australia which claims New Zealand has “ditched” Australia for China.
The promo, released today, initially features Steinfort asking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern if “you sometimes have to bite your tongue upsetting the regime in Beijing”, which she denies.
With the tone of an action movie trailer, the promo dramatically asks, “what are the Kiwis up to now”, and if New Zealand was becoming “New Xi-land” – referencing Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It claimed New Zealand had “ditched” Australia for a “fast Chinese buck”.
“We thought they were our best friends,” the promo said of New Zealand.
The promo also featured snippets of interviews with NewstalkZB host Mike Hosking and Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett.
Asked by Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan this afternoon if the promo was “over the top”, Steinfort said there were “strong opinions on both sides of this discussion” about New Zealand’s relationship with China.
“It has been drawing attention for some time why New Zealand hasn’t joined its traditional allies at Five Eyes in signing these condemnations of China’s human rights violations.”
Earlier this month, Parliament unanimously supported a motion to declare it was “gravely concerned about the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region”.
The declaration follows independent reports over the past few years that have found about 1 million Uighur Muslims confined to concentration camps, subject to torture and forced sterilisation.
There have also been reports of authorities seeking to eradicate their religion and culture.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Wellington said the declaration had “total disregard” of China’s position and was a “groundless accusation on China over human rights abuses”.
In May last year, the Herald reported New Zealand did not join its Five Eyes intelligence alliance partners – Canada, the UK, the US and Australia – in a joint declaration condemning China’s national security legislation on Hong Kong, despite the Government expressing “deep concern” about the situation.
Pressed on the New Xi-land line, Steinfort said: “It’s certainly got people talking, hasn’t it?”
Steinfort also claimed that following the promo release, the Prime Minister’s media team had contacted him, wanting a “Government voice” in the story – set to air on Sunday.
However, Steinfort alleged the offices of Trade minister Damien O’Connor and Foreign Affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta had refused to comment.
Asked on Thursday afternoon whether she had seen the trailer, Ardern told Newshub she hadn’t, but she understood it was “causing some amusement online”.
“While I haven’t seen the trailer, I do understand it is causing a little bit of amusement online. Obviously, I would completely disagree with the way that they are framing New Zealand and our relationship with Australia,” the Prime Minister told Newshub.
“I think the response online is probably an indication of how New Zealanders are receiving it.”
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