Foreign Affairs Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters says he expects China to respect New Zealand's rule of law and its rules around free speech.

His comments come after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday confirmed that Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mfat) officials met with Chinese Government representatives to stress the issue of free speech.

She said freedom of speech was "part of who we are and I think it is important that for those who may take a different view, that we are very clear about our expectations".

The talk centred around suggestions that protests should not be able to occur, or any suggestion that violence in protests would be justified, she said.

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"Really just reiterating New Zealand's position on freedom of speech, particularly when it comes to expression on university campuses."

Her comments follow tensions continuing to flare at Auckland University, where students are protesting about the situation in Hong Kong – which has been met with strong opposition from mainland Chinese students.

Last week, Newsroom reported that the Chinese Consulate General asked the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) to block an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

Speaking to media before going into the House this afternoon, Peters said he was not aware of what Mfat officials and Chinese representatives said in the meeting.

But he did say: "We want countries here to respect the rule of law and our freedom of speech.

"We expect every country, no matter how big or small, to be able to understand that."

Asked if the Chinese understand that after the meeting, Peters said: "I hope so."

Ardern yesterday said New Zealand values freedom of expression greatly – "particularly on university campuses and academic environments".

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"I would have an expectation that we really retain that on our campuses and in New Zealand."

She said Mfat had made its expectations with the Chinese representatives in New Zealand "that we will maintain and uphold our freedom of expression – that includes universities".