WELLINGTON - Opposition leader Jenny Shipley has given "less than comprehensive" answers to questions about her role in the handling of demonstrations during the visit last year by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, says Prime Minister Helen Clark.

A select committee inquiry is to look into the demonstrations, and Mrs Shipley's role in the police dispersal of protesters outside a Christchurch state banquet is likely to come under scrutiny.

Mr Jiang caused a near diplomatic furore in Christchurch, refusing to show up for more than 90 minutes because of a noisy protest over China's treatment of Tibet.

He arrived moments after police dispersed the protesters.

Mrs Shipley denied any involvement, amid allegations that she or her department had intervened, saying it was a police decision based on public safety concerns.

Civil liberties groups accused the Government of buckling to the sensitivities of the Chinese, who have shown little tolerance of dissension in recent years.

Yesterday, Mrs Shipley repeated her denial of any involvement in the police decision to disperse the protesters and said she did not believe anyone was questioning her word.

"If that's the case, then obviously I have remedies available to me."

She welcomed the inquiry and said she was happy to assist it.

"If there is any concern about this issue, it should be sorted out and discussed.

"It's been very clear to me from the police statements at the time how these things were organised, but I'm very happy to express my involvement in this process and I think it's an important thing that we have cleared if there is any lingering concern about it," Mrs Shipley said.

Helen Clark said the select committee was looking at how the protest was handled, and there "remains a concern that the previous Prime Minister directed the police on an operational matter."

"And that is of considerable concern," she said.

"There were witnesses to various events who have not yet gone public and those witnesses are adamant that there was at least a degree of direction to the New Zealand police," said Helen Clark.

"The suggestion is that the [then] Prime Minister spoke to the police in a way that any normal person would interpret as being an interference in operational matters."

That would be totally inappropriate, she said.

"The police must have command of operations."

The Prime Minister was aware of statements made by Mrs Shipley.

"I think the answers she [Mrs Shipley] has given in the past are less than comprehensive," Helen Clark said.

A select committee inquiry was the right forum to investigate the allegations.

- NZPA

* Override first, ask questions later - Editorial, A12.




Shipley in spotlight over Jiang protests




WELLINGTON - Opposition leader Jenny Shipley has given "less than comprehensive" answers to questions about her role in the handling of demonstrations during the visit last year by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, says Prime Minister Helen Clark.

A select committee inquiry is to look into the demonstrations, and Mrs Shipley's role in the police dispersal of protesters outside a Christchurch state banquet is likely to come under scrutiny.

Mr Jiang caused a near diplomatic furore in Christchurch, refusing to show up for more than 90 minutes because of a noisy protest over China's treatment of Tibet.

He arrived moments after police dispersed the protesters.

Mrs Shipley denied any involvement, amid allegations that she or her department had intervened, saying it was a police decision based on public safety concerns.

Civil liberties groups accused the Government of buckling to the sensitivities of the Chinese, who have shown little tolerance of dissension in recent years.

Yesterday, Mrs Shipley repeated her denial of any involvement in the police decision to disperse the protesters and said she did not believe anyone was questioning her word.

"If that's the case, then obviously I have remedies available to me."

She welcomed the inquiry and said she was happy to assist it.

"If there is any concern about this issue, it should be sorted out and discussed.

"It's been very clear to me from the police statements at the time how these things were organised, but I'm very happy to express my involvement in this process and I think it's an important thing that we have cleared if there is any lingering concern about it," Mrs Shipley said.

Helen Clark said the select committee was looking at how the protest was handled, and there "remains a concern that the previous Prime Minister directed the police on an operational matter."

"And that is of considerable concern," she said.

"There were witnesses to various events who have not yet gone public and those witnesses are adamant that there was at least a degree of direction to the New Zealand police," said Helen Clark.

"The suggestion is that the [then] Prime Minister spoke to the police in a way that any normal person would interpret as being an interference in operational matters."

That would be totally inappropriate, she said.

"The police must have command of operations."

The Prime Minister was aware of statements made by Mrs Shipley.

"I think the answers she [Mrs Shipley] has given in the past are less than comprehensive," Helen Clark said.

A select committee inquiry was the right forum to investigate the allegations.

- NZPA