Documents obtained by Stuff indicate the University of Auckland’s Confucius Institute has been used as a conduit to organise meetings between the University of Auckland and the China Consulate. This comes only a few weeks after legal counsel Rebecca Ewert claimed the university had “no contact” with the consulate on the website fyi.org.nz.
Stuff claims they have obtained messages and emails which prove staff from the university’s Confucius Institute organised multiple meetings between senior University of Auckland staff and the Consul-General. These meetings – which Stuff says began in mid-2018, and have continued on – included a dinner at the Consul-General’s home.
The allegations come only a few weeks after the university denied contact between the university and the China Consulate on fyi.org.nz (a website which allows members of the public to request official documents from public organisations under the Official Information Act). When a member of the public requested “correspondence received by the Office of the Chancellor and/or Vice Chancellors from Chinese embassy and/consular officials, or their representatives … as well as memos and other written records [of any correspondence]” through the website, the university’s legal counsel Rebecca Ewert refused the request. In her reply, Ewert said the “documents requested do not exist” as the university had “no contact” with the “Chinese embassy and/or consular officials, or their representatives”.
The university has since admitted to meeting with the China Consulate, but defends their actions. A spokesperson for the university says any concerns about the university’s relationship with the Consulate-General are “entirely misplaced”. “These were not [Confucius Institute] events,” the spokesperson says, “the [Confucius Institute] staff member assisted as an intermediary in setting up the meetings on account of her language skills and familiarity with Chinese culture and protocols”. According to them, the meetings themselves were “very standard ‘business as usual’ events that are undertaken with diplomatic representatives of many countries”.