‘I’m being watched’: Anne-Marie Brady, the China critic living in fear of Beijing

New Zealand academic says Chinese intimidation tactics she has studied are now being used against her

The Guardian
Date: 22 Jan 2019
By: Eleanor Ainge Royin

China academic Anne-Marie Brady says the harassment has put a strain on her family life. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

It’s just gone midday at Canterbury University and Professor Anne-Marie Brady is rock-hopping across a crystal clear stream.

The life-long academic takes an overgrown bush track to reach the Okeover community gardens, her eyes scanning the sky for native birds. It’s the height of summer in Christchurch and the garden is filled with rhubarb plants, clumps of chewy spinach and spring onions whose tips have turned white in the sun.

“I used to spend a lot of time here,” says Brady, 52, examining the beds, ploughed by academic staff and students wanting to unwind. “I don’t any more.”

Brady has spent more than 25 years researching the Chinese Communist party (CCP), using her base in New Zealand as a refuge to work on her books, cook elaborate meals for her family and tend her vegetable and flower gardens.

Anne-Marie Brady, a professor at the University of Canterbury. Photograph: Supplied
But since the publication of her 2017 paper Magic Weapons, which details the extent of Chinese influence in New Zealand, Brady’s life has been turned upside down, becoming the target of a campaign of intimidation and “psy-ops” she believes is directed by Beijing towards her and her family. The Chinese government has not responded to requests for comment.

Beginning in late 2017, Brady has had her home burgled and her office broken into twice. Her family car has been tampered with, she has received a threatening letter (“You are the next”) and answered numerous, anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, despite having an unlisted number. The latest came at 3am on the day her family returned home after a Christmas break. “I’m being watched”, she says.

A self-described “stoic”, Brady has had to draw on her experience of PTSD after the 2010 Christchurch earthquakes to help her handle the harassment.

“I have already protected myself in terms of all my information, and the rest is a mind game. It is meant to scare me… to cause mental illness or inhibit the kinds of things I write on – to silence me,” says Brady, her voice quavering slightly. “So I win by not being afraid.”

Close associates of Brady’s have also been visited by the Ministry of State Security in China.

Brady’s employer, Canterbury University, recently hired a security consultant to protect her office. New locks were fitted, CCTV introduced, and encryption software installed.