Labour says it’s outrageous for the government to tell its MPs not to attend Falun Gong celebrations next week.
Foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer says the email from Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s office warns ministers and MPs of the Chinese embassy’s “sensitivities”.
“Not only that, it also states the embassy will be monitoring the events and is likely to make an official protest if any politicians or `other officials’ attend,” Mr Shearer said.
“It’s outrageous to warn MPs off attending events. New Zealand has a proud history of free speech, freedom of religion and an independent foreign policy.”
Falun Gong describes itself as a spiritual movement.
It began teaching its beliefs publicly in 1992 and was initially supported by the Chinese government.
That changed in 1999, when it was declared to be “a heretical organisation” that threatened social stability.
Its members regularly demonstrate outside the Chinese embassy in Wellington, claiming persecution.
There was a row in 2002 when Auckland Airport accepted a complaint from the Chinese consulate and removed a Falun Gong sign.
The consulate said it carried a “sinister message” which advocated practices banned in China.
The Council of Civil Liberties accused airport authorities of “spineless appeasement”.
Falun Gong is holding its annual international celebration next week.