Dr. Stephen Noakes, of Auckland University, said that non-enrollees showed up to his lectures and “appeared to be gathering intelligence.” On one occasion, an individual whom Noakes had never seen before was in the lecture theater, taking pictures.
“It made me incredibly uncomfortable and I followed it up afterwards. I’ve not seen that person again,” Noakes stated.
Catherine Churchman, a professor at Victoria University in Wellington teaching ancient Chinese history, said that, in 2017, a man came to her class and “upbraided her about her lecture content.” When asked why he was in the class, the man claimed to be a “visiting scholar.” Churchman told him he was not supposed to be there and he needed to leave. Later, she saw the same man descending from a bus near the Chinese embassy located in Wellington.
“‘Maybe this was just completely coincidental. Maybe he lived there, I don’t know,” she said.
“But the fact that he was quite determined to try and engage me to find out things; that he came into my class without asking permission and tried to correct me with the … ‘official position’ on Chinese history and their relationship with non-Chinese people – I found that rather suspicious.'”
“‘What we now often find is students enrolled in our courses from mainland China are far more nationalistic than was the case when I started teaching at universities 12 to 15 years ago,’ he said…
“There is a renewed focus in China on national pride. It’s an explicit pillar of Xi Jinping’s leadership and that emphasis, that focus, trickles down from the state and party leadership to those who come up through Chinese education systems and then they arrive on our doorstep one day.'”
Noakes said that a common example of such an attitude is Chinese students declaring in class that the media coverage of the June 1989 civilian massacre by Chinese state troops in Tiananmen Square was a mere “fabrication by the West to make China look bad.” Noakes said he usually hears this a few times during each semester.
These stories are featured in Red Line, a new podcast series from RNZ and Bird of Paradise Productions, which was released on June 27. RNZ contacted the Chinese embassy but received no response.