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Police Actions At Protests Point To Deeper Problem

GATT Watchdog PO Box 1905 Christchurch

12 December 2000

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

POLICE ACTIONS AT JIANG ZEMIN PROTESTS POINT TO DEEPER PROBLEM

GATT Watchdog is pleased that the Justice and Electoral Select Committee inquiry has strongly criticised the police handling of protests during the September 1999 state visit of Jiang Zemin. But the group, which was involved in an education and action campaign against APEC last year, wants more.

"The heavy-handed and politically-motivated policing operations around last year's Jiang Zemin demonstrations are a symptom of a deeper and serious ongoing problem which needs to be urgently confronted," says GATT Watchdog spokesperson, Aziz Choudry.

"There is a mindset and operational culture within the Police which frequently equates challenges to prevailing political and economic orthodoxies with criminal activity. This raises real questions about people's rights to freely express their political beliefs. Police actions against lawful protests during Jiang Zemin's state visit are a vivid reminder of a deeper malaise within the force, and show very clearly that it is not politically neutral."

In May, GATT Watchdog was one of two dozen groups and individuals which called on the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for a full and open select committee inquiry into the role of the Criminal Intelligence Service (CIS) of the Police in targetting political organisations and activists. The Green Party has also backed this call.

Chair of the Select Committee, Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett, has indicated that consideration would be given to holding an inquiry into the role of the CIS in targetting people on the grounds of their political beliefs and advocacy, once the inquiry into the policing of the pro-Tibet demonstrations ended.

Evidence of CIS surveillance of Aziz Choudry and Canterbury University lecturer David Small, and CIS cooperation with the Security Intelligence Service in concealing its botched, illegal break-in at Mr Choudry's home in July 1996, was heard in the Christchurch High Court earlier this year when Dr Small successfully sued the Police over an unlawful house search.

"The actions of the Police in relation to the pro-Tibet demonstrations, and the surveillance and intelligence activities of its Criminal Intelligence Service directed at political organisations and activists seem in line with political elements in other police forces elsewhere in the world which routinely monitor, harass, and attempt to criminalise legitimate political organisers and activities."

"These examples show Police operating with a cavalier disregard for the rights of people to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Now it is time to call the Police's Criminal Intelligence Service to account for the exercise of their powers. This is long overdue"

For further comment, ph Aziz Choudry (025) 6627174

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