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PM Disturbed At Police Treatment Of Protestors

The Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was “disturbed” at police efforts to move protesters during Chinese Premier Jiang Xiamin’s visit to Christchurch last year.

Speaking at the post cabinet press conference yesterday Miss Clark said police may have overreached their authority to move on demonstrators who were exercising their democratic right by protesting in a public place.

She said while she believed police actions were within the law, they were not working within “the spirit” of how the current Government would have demonstrators treated.

There has been speculation that the former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley used her influence to ensure the protesters were kept out of range. Mrs Shipley, who attended the dinner for the Premier at the Grand Chancellor hotel, has denied this.

The protesters, rallying against China’s human rights record and its continued occupation of Tibet, had complained police had moved them away from a public area, and had not acted when Chinese officials had earlier removed one of their banners.

Speaking yesterday at a Parliamentary select committee held to examine police handling of the incident, police admitted Chinese authorities had put considerable pressure on them to keep the demonstrators away from the meeting. Using sirens and flashing lights to drown out the noise of the demonstration they also moved then off the road when the Chinese delegation left and arrived.

Miss Clark said she respected the police had to act under international laws to protect important foreign dignitaries. But under the circumstances she said it would have be better if the meeting had not gone ahead.

She said she supported Police Commissioner Rob Robinson’s call for new guidelines dealing with the treatment of protesters.

ends

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