Chinese leader cancels university visit over security concerns

Chinese leader cancels university visit over security concerns

China's Vice-President Xi Jinping cancelled a planned visit to Wellington's Victoria University Saturday following a fracas outside Parliament in which a New Zealand lawmaker was manhandled by Chinese security guards, dpa reported.

More than 150 guests had been invited to see Xi, the number two man in the Chinese hierarchy, launch the university's Confucius Institute.

The event was reportedly called off because of security concerns after the co-leader of the Green Party, Russel Norman, was jostled by about 12 security guards on Friday as he waved a Tibetan flag when the Chinese leader arrived at Parliament.

Norman shouted "Freedom for the people of Tibet" and "Don't bring your undemocratic processes to our country," as Xi's security tore the flag from his hands and tried to move him out of sight of the vice-president.

Norman lodged a claim of assault with police and called for the Chinese guards involved to be detained before Xi's delegation left the country on Saturday.

A police statement said a preliminary report had concluded there was not enough evidence to substantiate the accusation.

"Police have spoken to a number of people who witnessed the incident, reviewed available footage, and approached the Chinese delegation who declined to comment with information that might assist the inquiry," Wellington police Chief Inspector Peter Cowan said.

Norman told reporters, "I think it's pretty outrageous that Chinese security can come to our country and push around an elected member of Parliament simply because we are standing up for democracy and freedom in our own country on our own Parliamentary grounds."

The Green Party has asked Prime Minister John Key why Parliament's own security guards had not intervened to protect him.

Key told the New Zealand Press Association that it was disappointing the incident would overshadow what had otherwise been a significant and successful visit aimed at further strengthening trade ties.

Phil Goff, leader of the opposition Labour Party, met Xi later and told reporters, "I raised with the vice-president that a very important cultural and political tradition in New Zealand is the tradition of peaceful protest."

He said Xi told him he had come to New Zealand expecting peaceful protest.

Xi, who is on a four-nation overseas tour, is scheduled to arrive in Australia on Saturday.

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