Foreign Minister Murray McCully's office has been caught out issuing an edict to National MPs not to attend upcoming Falun Gong celebrations because of China's "sensitivities" - a request Labour said shows how far National will go to kowtow to China.
Mr McCully's office issued a warning against attending next week's World Falun Dafa Day events but it was intercepted by Labour after it was accidentally sent to the secretaries of every MP in Parliament rather than just National MPs.
In it, Mr McCully's office noted that May 13 was World Falun Dafa Day and the office was aware of at least two celebrations for which MPs could receive invites.
"The Chinese Embassy is likely to monitor attendance at events and can be expected to protest officially should Ministers, Members of Parliament or other officials be present ... Given the sensitivities of this event, [the Ministry of Foreign Affairs'] advice is Ministers and MPs should not attend World Falun Dafa Day events."
The 'not' was underlined. It also asked MPs to contact Mr McCully's office if they did receive invites.
Labour's foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said the request was disturbing given New Zealand's history defending free speech. "It is outrageous to warn MPs off from attending events. It should not be dictated to by Murray McCully and his ministry because they feel it might upset another country."
Mr McCully is in China and a spokesman said only that the email was intended for National MPs only but was mistakenly sent more widely.