Will someone in authority please do something this time so we don't get yet another episode like the one outside the Beehive last Friday.

How many more times do we have to witness the New Zealand Government bent double in fawning supplication to the Chinese authorities because a visiting dignitary from Beijing might have suffered a minor loss of face because a Tibetan flag might conceivably have fallen within his or her peripheral vision or hearing for a couple of nanoseconds?

Just as importantly, when are the Greens going to grow up and realise that, though miracles might happen at the football World Cup, small countries don't get much dividend from rubbing the noses of super-powers in their dirty political laundry?

The answer to the latter question is - for as long as the Chinese react to protest in the same manner as Dracula reacted to a crucifix. What better incentive for those demonstrating against China's record on human rights when, as a result of the the previous day's minor fracas between Greens co-leader Russel Norman and his bodyguards, Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping ended up confining himself to his hotel suite rather than brave the perceived horrors of Victoria University's campus on a Saturday morning.

The problem, however, is not what Xi's behaviour says about China's attitude to democratic rights. It is what the visit has revealed about the upholding of democratic rights in New Zealand when freedom of speech runs smack bang into the realpolitik of dealing with a super-power.

For all of what the visit achieved - probably quite a lot in further cementing Wellington-Beijing relations - it has left an unsavoury aftertaste.

While the ensuing debate on whether Norman is a martyr or merely an opportunist is healthy, some remedy has to be found so the country does not lower its threshold for political tolerance every time a guest from Beijing hoves into view.

A remedy has been needed since New Zealand authorities kowtowed to Chinese President Jiang Zemin during his post-Apec visit in 1999 and moved legitimate protesters out of his sight.

There have been incidents since - most latterly the eviction of a journalist working for New Zealand-based Chinese news media from a photo-opportunity in the Minister of Finance's office during the last Government.

On that occasion, it was New Zealand security personnel who did China's bidding.

This time, it was the Chinese who did the 'heavying' - if you can call it that. That may be just as well. New Zealand officials conducting a post-mortem examination of Friday's events might well reflect on the storm which would have ensued had local police blocked an MP from going about his business within the parliamentary precinct.

Norman, however, can hardly claim wounded surprise at what happened. Someone trying to brush up against one of the most powerful figures in the world's most populous nation unannounced is hardly going to be welcomed with open arms.

There is also a question of whether it was acceptable for Norman to use his status as an MP to protest within the cordon between Xi and the dozen or so other protesters in Parliament's grounds.

Norman says he was only waving a flag. Some flag. You have to wonder what the New Zealand reaction would be were a Chinese MP to wave a placard in favour of Maori separatism in John Key's face when he is in Beijing next month.

Norman's plea yesterday to Speaker Lockwood Smith - under whose jurisdiction Friday's incident falls - was that New Zealand security should be in charge of the parliamentary precinct for visits by foreign envoys. Presumably that was the case on Friday.

The solution has to be a political one - not a security-related one.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully's suggestion of a protocol developed by the Speaker outlining how MPs can protest within Parliament is a start. But it cannot become a vehicle for parking such MPs out of sight and thus out of visiting Chinese minds - just as those MPs cannot use the right of free speech as a blank cheque to abdicate them from responsibility for their actions.