A coward’s ploy.

datePosted on 11:52, November 17th, 2019 by Pablo

Some readers may remember that I mentioned last year that I was applying for NZ citizenship. I filled out the paperwork and had my original citizenship interview in February. Everything went well until they discovered that, because I had spent five months in the US in 2017, I had not been in continuous NZ residency for the full amount of time required before the interview took place (one has to spend 240 days in NZ in a 12 month period or 1,350 days across the five years preceding the application, so I was overseas for one month over the 4 month yearly limit). I was therefore ineligible for citizenship at that time.

That was not much of a problem, as everything else looked good to go and I was advised to re-apply at the end of August once I had accumulated the required number of continuous days in residence. That I did, and had another interview in early October, paid my fee, and settled into wait the 3-4 months before getting word as to whether my application had been approved. As it turns out, approval can only be granted by the Minister responsible for citizenship matters upon the recommendation of her staff, so my decision will fall to Tracey Martin of NZ First.

About a week after I applied I was contacted by a Senior Investigator from the Department Internal Affairs. He told me that in early December last year they had received an anonymous email making serious allegations against me and requesting that I be denied citizenship. Because of that, he was duty bound to request a meeting so that I could respond to the allegations in person.

We held that meeting last week. I was relieved to know that the complaint was not of a personal nature. Instead, it concerned by public writing and commentary, including, presumably, on this blog.

The complainant alleges that I am not loyal to New Zealand; that I am not loyal to the Queen and would not be subject to her rule; that my published opinions are contrary to NZ national interests; that I have a strong bias in favour of US interests; that I am a scaremonger; that I am a foreign “imbedded (sic) operative;” and that I am seeking to influence the internal affairs of NZ by foreign interests. The person then goes on to request that my application be rejected on those grounds.

Needless to say I had plenty to comment on. I had to laugh at the references to the Queen since no native-born Kiwi is asked to swear loyalty to her and most of my native-born friends are a wee bit skeptical about royalty in any event. I have heard the stuff about being a covert operative before (CIA, Mossad, take your pick), and as for trying to influence things in NZ I noted that I happily plead guilty to the charge of trying to participate in public debates on matters that fall within my range of interest and expertise given my professional training and background. I noted that the complainant appeared to have a poor understanding of liberal democracy and the freedoms inherent in it.

One thing that interested the investigator was how this person knew that I was going to apply for citizenship. Again, the complaint was made in the first week of December 2018. I could only think of two possible situations where I mentioned my intentions around that time. One was in a professional forum under Chatham House rules. The other was on this blog. So I went into the blog archives and low and behold, in late November/early December 2018 I wrote several posts about the PRC and the Anne-Marie Brady affair (the break-ins of her office and home and the weak Police response to them after her paper about Chinese influence in NZ politics was published). Those posts attracted the attention of a pro-PRC troll who went by the name of Mark and who gave all the appearance of being a Chinese New Zealander. Some of you may remember him, but you will not find him in the comments because I eventually blacklisted him (after labelling him “skid mark”) for repeatingly violating the terms governing comments on KP.

Mark did not solely focus his attention here. Around the same time he wrote similar comments on YourNZ, Bowalley Road, Croaking Cassandra and No Minister (Tom Hunter may recall him). His argument and tone was pretty much the same on all platforms.

I decided to look into Mark just a wee bit. It turns out that last December he created a twitter account under the name Mark Zhang (MarkZha88709847). He posted 16 tweets on December 8, then vanished. I cross checked the language in the complaint with the comments he made here and in other forums as well as the tweets and I am pretty sure that he is the complainant.

There is much irony in this. Here is a guy who is a blatant pro-PRC stooge who questions my loyalty to NZ and sees my supposed pro-US bias as grounds for disqualification. This Einstein does not seem to comprehend that even anonymous emails using VPN can be traced back to their source and that making frivolous complaints that waste official time and resources could warrant further scrutiny (the investigator had to fly from Wellington to Auckland to interview me).

In any event, the interview with the investigator seemed to go well. I was given a copy of the allegations and asked to review and sign the written transcript of my responses, which I did. I am satisfied that there is nothing that I have done in my 22 years living in NZ that warrants my being denied citizenship, but that is for Tracey Martin to decide.

With luck, come late summer or early fall I will be lining up in a citizenship ceremony to pledge my loyalty to the Queen of New Zealand (which, as it turns out, is apparently the wording of the loyalty oath).

I can do that.

28 Responses to “A coward’s ploy.”

  1. Sam on November 17th, 2019 at 14:39

    Wait so all some random has to do is make baseless allegations like some Metoo wana be? It’s good the interview went all swell and that but I’m not comfortable with immigration officials who can be pushed around so easily, I mean a five minute Google search of this blog should have revealed the allegations are bullshit. Allegations shouldn’t be the new evidential threshold.

  2. Lynn Prentice on November 17th, 2019 at 15:32

    ‘Mark’ also left comments at TS. The characterization is pretty accurate. I think he picked up a couple of behaviour bans (you know what we’re like there) for attacking other commentators without bothering to read nuance.

    Good idea getting on a decent citizenship. I’ve always found it works for me. But I’ve had between 140 and 200 years of short-generational ancestors before me wearing it in.

    Give me a yell if you need a pugnacious ancient kiwi geek to jump up and down on something on your behalf. We’ve known each other long enough, albeit at mostly network length.

    And damn whilst praising the queen. She is like the police – a semi-evil that we really need to have around because no-one can figure out a better way of doing it.

    If we didn’t have her family, then we’d have to have something like a president. Look where that gets the US – Trumped.

  3. Pablo on November 17th, 2019 at 15:43

    Thanks Lynn.

    Indeed, we go back a ways, albeit mostly from distance. I have always appreciated your efforts on my behalf during those dark days. And yes, if I need a character witness I will simply tell the authorities that I have a real character who is willing to witness on my behalf. :-0

    As for Mark. I think he may have bit more than he can chew when he made the complaint (assuming that I am correct in my suppositions). The questions I was asked centred on the Queen, loyalty to NZ, and who the complaintant might be.

  4. Greg Presland on November 17th, 2019 at 18:40

    Hey Pablo I would be really happy to see you become a citizen.

    As part of my civic duties I get to administer the oaths at ceremonies. It is the best part of the job.

    Being a kiwi means having the ability to have independent views on matters. Expecting feral servitude to the Queen is weird.

    When your citizenship is granted let me know which ceremony you will be at and I will be sure that I am there.

  5. Pablo on November 17th, 2019 at 18:49

    Cheers Greg,

    I am honoured by your kind offer. One of the interesting things that I experienced during the investigator’s interview was that he said “you do realise that you have to physically show up for the oath ceremony.” I was like, ” do you think I was going to Skype it in?”

  6. Geoff Fischer on November 17th, 2019 at 19:44

    It is interesting that you would pledge solemn allegiance to the Queen, something that many thousands of our people have refused to do over the past 180 years, often to their great personal cost.
    The complaint from your anonymous informant is the kind of political nastiness one would expect from any despotic regime (think Stasi, Savak etc).
    So it is ironic that you will in due course be publicly swearing allegiance to such a regime.
    Unlike Greg Presland I will not be present to hear you take the oath of allegiance.
    I would prefer to remember you as a feisty democrat than as a monarchist by convenience.

  7. Gõrkem on November 17th, 2019 at 23:54

    So did you not realise until recently that part of the citizenship ceremony was pledging loyalty to the Queen? It has often been criticised by republicans as a double standard, exactly as you say – no native born citizen is required to pledge an oath, while people receiving citizenship by grant are.

    Republican minded people I know who have gone through the ceremony say they rationalise it as a pledge to obey the head of state, who is currently the Queen, but might in the future be an elected or appointed person. I think this is probably the spirit in which it is intended, even within the DIA, but nonetheless the actual wording of the oath does not support this – it is phrased as an oath to Queen Elizabeth personally. (Although thankfully, should Elizabeth kick the bucket, nobody is required to re-swear an oath to her successor, which perhaps shows that the theory that is not a personal oath has some support)

    Personally I am OK with the monarchy but I still think pledging loyalty to the sovereign is silly – I think a monarchy is a good system, but I wouldn’t abandon my loyalty to the state if we moved to a republican system (just as most republicans don’t refuse to show loyalty to the state while it has a monarch).

    Anyway I hope your citizenship application is successful. My fingers are crossed. You seem confident, but if I were you, I would not jinx myself – as a former DIA official, I have seen a lot of applications rejected for reasons I consider frivolous.

    (While it is technically up to Tracey Martin, in practice the Minister only makes a decision in very contentious cases – 99% of applications are decided on by staff, and the Minister simply signs off on them without reviewing the file).

    Anyway just to add to the pile of those supporting your application, if you want advice from an ex-DIA person, please do get in touch.

  8. Gõrkem on November 17th, 2019 at 23:57

    As an addendum, there are people who do think they can skype into their citizenship ceremony, or even send someone else on their behalf, so while it may seem silly, I understand why the person asked.

    And Sam, technically the DIA are not “immigration officials”. Pablo’s immigration status is settled and not up for review (even in the unlikely event his citizenship was rejected, it would not affect his immigration status). The citizenship process is a different process that takes place after the immigration process. This may seem like a quibble but it is actually quite relevant because the people who manage the process are from a different department, under a different minister, are trained differently, and ultimately have different (although ideally complimentary, but still, different) public policy goals.

  9. Sam on November 18th, 2019 at 00:33

    Iv tacitly concede to Pablo. There will be no carry on from me,

  10. Barbara Matthews on November 18th, 2019 at 04:42

    Fealty to the House of Windsor is preferable to that of Putin, China et al. or to some local fly by night politician intent on power. It doesn’t involve anything but your signature. All the best.

  11. Pablo on November 18th, 2019 at 09:29

    Not surprised to see Geoff pop up after a long absence given that the Queen was mentioned. Let me put it this way: I do not see the citizenship oath as a dichotomous choice between “feisty” democrat and monarchist, nor do I see it as opportunistic. First, because I am allowed to retain my US citizenship, so I get a bit of both worlds (republican and monarchist), however flawed, as a result of the exercise.

    Secndly, I was in fact aware of the oath before applying for citizenship as well as the fact that I had to attend the ceremony. No biggie. It is just that the complainant was clearly aware of the oath requirement, perhaps having gone through the same ceremony himself, so he harped on the loyalty bit. Thus the investigator asked me about the issue, taking pains to note that loyalty was being sworn to the “Queen of NZ.”

    My response was that I respect the laws and traditions of NZ and am therefore loyal to them as much as my native born neighbours are. If the Queen can be considered the embodiment of said laws and traditions, no matter how archaic that may seem, then I am fine with swearing the oath. I have been here 22 years, have a native born wife and child, so feel a sense of loyalty to the country. Or as I said to the investigator, I am from the US but no longer am of it. Home is here.

    One thing that should be noted is that the only benefits I receive from being a citizen as opposed to a permanent resident is that I am eligible for a NZ passport (which is more welcome in many places than a US passport), can run for political office and can be granted security clearances. Not that I plan on the last two any time soon, but that is the sum total of difference between permanent resident status and full citizenship. And I pay a fee (around $430) for that privilege.

  12. Görkem on November 18th, 2019 at 10:02

    Being a NZ citizen also means that one can buy property in NZ without being resident. As a permanent resident you have that right right now, but a citizen can buy as much property as they want without ever setting foot in the country.

  13. Görkem on November 18th, 2019 at 10:05

    Comparing the two maps:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/58/Visa_requirements_for_New_Zealand_citizens.png/700px-Visa_requirements_for_New_Zealand_citizens.png

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a3/Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens.png/810px-Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens.png

    There arent major differences. There are a few places where a NZ passport is better than a US one (Bolivia, Iran, Uzbekistan), but also a few places where a US passport is better than a NZ one (Egypt, Ukraine, Central Africa, Trinidad and Tobago).

  14. James Green on November 18th, 2019 at 15:23

    Well I hope it goes smoothly from here on out. Sometimes we disagree (on US-NZ relations is what comes to mind, ironically) but on the whole I think you are a credit to our country.

    There really need to sort their process out by the sounds of it and not put so much stock in anonymous accusations.

  15. Pablo on November 18th, 2019 at 16:39

    James:

    I enjoyed the right to be able to respond directly to the allegations rather than let the bureaucrats form their own opinions or start delving into my private life based on them. It also allowed for a frank exchange of views on a variety of topics with the investigator and the other staff member in attendance. All good.

  16. Görkem on November 18th, 2019 at 22:06

    It is easy to say that anonymous allegations should be ignored – this one was clearly without substance – but there are circumstances in which an anonymous allegation would be something which should definitively be considered. There is a well known case in the 00s when an anonymous allegation revealed that a would-be citizen had been convicted of child abuse in an African country, something that wasn’t available to DIA through their information sharing with other jurisdictions and the applicant obviously didn’t volunteer.

    Perhaps what James has in mind is that only substantive anonymous allegations should be considered, but then we are leaving it up to those nasty government bureaucrats to make a value judgement about what is “substantive”, and I am sure we all see the problem with that.

    I think Pablo is right, in an ideal world this allegation would never have made because trolls wouldn’t troll, but personally I am OK with erring on the side of more investigations, not less – particularly since the cost of considering this particular allegation seems to have been pretty low.

  17. Tom Hunter on November 21st, 2019 at 10:38

    Mark did not solely focus his attention here. Around the same time he wrote similar comments on YourNZ, Bowalley Road, Croaking Cassandra and No Minister (Tom Hunter may recall him). His argument and tone was pretty much the same on all platforms.

    My ears should have been burning.

    I remember him alright. Pretty hard to forget that level of robotic dissembling direct from the Chinese Communist Party. I think I also tackled him on Kiwiblog and even then I wondered if he had posted there in earlier times as “Zhumao” and “A Single Spark”

    Actually, this story is probably worth a post in and of itself at NoMinister, given that I’ve come close to a similar experience myself recently.

    Oh – and congrats on your upcoming NZ citizenship, in spite of “Mark”‘s interventions. I assume you will be retaining US citizenship, given its usefulness in some aspects?

  18. Pablo on November 21st, 2019 at 11:33

    Tom:

    To your last question, the answer is yes.

  19. paul scott on November 28th, 2019 at 03:45

    I take it that we are allowed to have dual citizenship. You may be interested to know that Immigration New Zealand Offices in China almost certainly have no New Zealand Citizens within them. My OIA questions on New Zealand citizens in foreign INZ Offices reveal that the entire process of Immigration has been foreigned out. OIA MBIE are nearly as good as MSD at obfuscation and gobbledygook but as far as I can ascertain the handing over of New Zealand Immigration is complete. Michael Woodhouse managed it. We had the cards up our sleeves to see the end of Lees-Galloway but a new Government would bring in the ultra establishment Stuart Smith Kaikoura, and we’re not sure which is worse. Also there is quite a personal price in seeing off a Minister, or attempting to do so. Once SERCO gets hold of us, and it will, then the Globalist terror will start in earnest. As I remeber Pablo once said, just a local isolated business, local Police can see it right. Paul Scott

  20. Hugh Eldred-Grigg on November 28th, 2019 at 04:23

    Hi Paul.

    Why do you dislike dual citizenship? Do you think countries like China and North Korea have a better system? Do you think New Zealand would be a better place if Pablo was forced to give up his NZ citizenship?

    I think you are confused regarding immigration offices. While they may be staffed by locally retained staff, this is pretty standard practice around the world. The local staff usually just collect paperwork, make sure it is in order and do daa entry. That doesn’t mean they are the ones actually making decisions. Do you think the process would work better if the person checking that the correct boxes in the form are completed was a New Zealand citizen?

    The less said about “globalist terror” the better.

  21. Geoff Fischer on November 28th, 2019 at 07:05

    Kia ora Hugh
    The problem with dual citizenship is that it signifies either a dual allegiance or no allegiance at all.
    As the Gospel says “”No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
    No one is going to deprive Pablo of New Zealand citizenship. The colonial regime checked out his political beliefs, found them compatible with its own, and decided to grant him citizenship. That is standard practice, except for the fact that an anonymous informant went to the state authorities with a claim that Pablo was politically unreliable. After investigation this claim was dismissed and I personally see little if anything to differentiate Pablo’s politics from those of the regime.
    My question was why Pablo would want to be part of a regime that exercises political oversight of its citizens in a manner very like “China and North Korea” and employs secret political informants to that end.
    I believe that we now have an answer to that question.

  22. Pablo on November 28th, 2019 at 10:31

    Geoff:

    Unless you are joking (and I assume that you are not), you jumped the shark with that “like China and North Korea” comment. For all of its flaws and its less than stellar record in upholding democratic ideals for all, it is a bit of a stretch to compare NZ as a peer of the PRC and DPRK (what with them being one party authoritarian states with massive records of human rights abuses, etc.).

    I also do not quite see the point of your beef with dual citizenship. You bang on about political loyalty but do you not figure in affective reasons such as family, friends and genuine love of an adopted homeland? Also, there are practical aspects to consider. With NZ citizenship I can run for political office and be eligible for security clearances, all the more better for when I engage in the type of Deep State work that you rabbit on about. So take it from me, republicanism is cool but when one is dealt a different set of cards when it comes to tokens of sovereignty, one should go with the flow.

  23. Geoff Fischer on November 28th, 2019 at 12:23

    Kia ora Pablo
    I have no doubt that there are people and places that you love, friends and family in both the Americas and Aotearoa. But what you call “affective reasons” actually have no bearing on citizenship. You love friends and family and they love you regardless of your citizenship status.
    Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state. That is all.
    The “practical reasons” that you offer for wishing to be a New Zealand citizen (“I can run for political office and be eligible for security clearances” and “engage in .. Deep State work”) are genuinely pertinent. If you want to do these things then it pays to have a close association with the New Zealand state, and, as you put it, “go with the flow”.

  24. Pablo on November 28th, 2019 at 13:21

    Geoff:

    I hear what you are saying about affective reasons versus relationship with the State. Therein lies the rub. Just as one can have a partnership with someone, marriage confers on them state recognition of that union. That in turn grants married couples certain rights and obligations not offered to unmarried partners. The campaign for gay marriage is premised on that fact. Sure, marriage does not alter the affective relationship between the parties but it symbolises a deeper commitment that comes with state-sanctioned benefits/obligations. And on a practical level, some foreign states like Singapore do not recognise partnerships outside of marriage, which places limits and liabilities on unmarried couples who wish to reside there (as my wife and I found out when we decided to move there in the 2000s).

    Anyway, so too is the case with citizenship. One may simply be formalising or codifying an extant relationship with the society in which one lives, symbolised by the formal commitment to uphold the values of that society. That, more than the wording of any oath, is what matters (and I recognise that you are deeply skeptical about NZ values, at least as far as Pakeha interpretations of them go).

    The practical aspects extend beyond the limited privileges I currently do not enjoy as a permanent resident. As I have said before, the NZ passport can be very helpful in certain situations. For example, Chile charges US passport holders a USD$100 entry fee when they arrive on temporary or tourist visas. That is because the US charges Chileans traveling to the US USD$100 for the “privilege” of entering the country. Chile does not charge NZ passport holders anything other than the usual temporary or tourist visa fee, and NZ reciprocates in kind. NZ passport holders have dedicated entry gates at airports, thereby avoiding mob scenes at the gates designated for foreigners. NZ citizens can travel to OZ and the Cook Islands without visas, US citizens cannot. The point is that I have practical as well as affective reasons for making the move to NZ citizenship, especially given that I get to keep my US citizenship (which is helpful going to and coming from the Great Satan).

    BTW–the US charges about NZD$450 for a US citizenship application but charges NZ$2500 for renouncing US citizenship. Perhaps it has to do with legal liabilities in the US but it seems punitive to charge people more to give up that particular token of sovereignty than to acquire it.

  25. Görkem on November 29th, 2019 at 00:39

    @Pablo: What rights do married partners have in New Zealand that unmarried couples in long term cohabitation don’t have?

    Ironically a NZ passport costs more than 100 USD to acquire, so getting one to save money on visa fees to Chile would only work for people making multiple trips.

    I think part of the reason renunciation is expensive is because it is so much more complex to process. The legal landscape around citizenship renunciation is very calamitous and full of legal and practical pitfalls. It doesn’t really surprise me that it is costly to process and, if the USA is running its processes at cost (which is standard for western democracies) this would sadly expect to be reflected in the fees. It would be politically pretty difficult to get approval for the state to subsidise the renunciation procedure, I should imagine.

  26. Pablo on November 29th, 2019 at 06:57

    Gorkem:

    The point of my remark about marriage is the analogy with citizenship: it formally reaffirms the de facto status of the parties involved. It also eases a number of legal transactions, including inheritance and property matters, without additional legal hoop-jumping. Again, that is why legalisation of gay marriage was so important to that community.

    I used my experience with Chilean immigration as an example. There are many countries that impose additional fees on US passport holders, often in reply to US entry fee charging on their citizens. The larger point is that in many places a NZ passport is more welcome than a US passport. Think Iran, DPRK, Venezuela, Syria, PRC, Pakistan, etc. And less you think that NZ passports are only helpful in “rogue” countries or those with adversarial relationships with the US, there are places like Greece, Turkey, and Argentina where it is preferable to be seen as a Kiwi rather than a Yank.

    As for the cost of reunouncing US citizenship, there is a simple solution. Acquire foreign citizenship and let the US passport expire. Unless one has property or other legal tangibles in the US, at that point one is as good as dead in the eyes of the federal government. And one can use the foreign passport, with appropiate visa, to go and come from there.

  27. Gõrkem on November 29th, 2019 at 08:28

    Hey Pablo, I think you are wrong re: US citizenship. Having an expired passport doesn’t mean one is no longer a citizen. Most notably, one’s tax obligations as a US citizen remain even without a passport.

    Re: passports, I don’t know if you saw, but I did a little comparison earlier. It seemed to me there is not too much difference between the two. In a handful of countries a NZ passport is better, but in another handful, a US passport is better, and in very many, they offer identical access. Here are the two maps again: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/58/Visa_requirements_for_New_Zealand_citizens.png/700px-Visa_requirements_for_New_Zealand_citizens.png

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a3/Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens.png/810px-Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens.png

    Finally, re: inheritance and property, I actually think you are incorrect. Under the NZ Human Rights Act, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of (among other things), marital status. De facto partners have just as many inheritance rights as married partners. This may not be the case in other countries, but in New Zealand there are no legal or financial benefits that flow directly from marriage. I remember ten years ago the DIA had to change its rules regarding citizenship – it had previously allowed people to apply for citizenship sooner if they were married to a citizen, but this had to be changed when it was pointed out it contravened the aforementioned Human Rights Act.

  28. Tiger Mountain on November 29th, 2019 at 15:22

    wtf…etc.

    You would be a great NZ citizen as far as I am concerned Pablo, based on your writing, media contributions, and subject knowledge, particularly from Latin America, over many years. We have a paucity of public intellectuals in this country. It is intriguing indeed to see some of the the oddballs, and undercovers, like ‘Mark’ that political struggle coughs up.

    Peter Thiel comes to mind also, when the nature and process of NZ residency and citizenship is being discussed. It is far from a neutral zone.

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