Jacinda Ardern's government will come under increasing pressure to muscle up to China as relations with the superpower return to the fore.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is sure to push the issue with New Zealand's leader when he visits Queenstown for talks with Ms Ardern on the weekend.
AAP can reveal dissent in Wellington, with MPs across the political spectrum dissatisfied with the government strong-arming a debate on Chinese human rights abuses.
This month, Labour used its majority in parliament to water down a proposed debate on whether atrocities committed against Uighurs in Xinjiang constituted genocide.
Instead, the parliament unanimously passed a motion condemning "severe human rights abuses".
One major party MP described that as "weak as water".
Another said the government was "totally beholden to China on trade".
"It's wholeheartedly ironic the debate was suppressed ... I think we will find that the parliament will have to revisit this issue again," another MP said.
Wellington is proud and protective of its relationship with Beijing, which produced China's first free trade agreement with a western nation, and which has not degraded in recent years as Sino-Australia relations have.
Still, China's embassy in Wellington "deplored" the parliamentary vote, saying it "will go nowhere but to harm the mutual trust between China and NZ".
Soon, Kiwi MPs may add their names to their dissent by joining the hawkish Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).
IPAC is a growing group of MPs in western countries, including Australia, that want western governments to push China harder to admit abuses and change its behaviour.
NZ has just two members; co-chairs National MP Simon O'Connor and Labour MP Louisa Wall.
Ms Wall said the parliamentary statement was appropriate but "we continue to call for an independent international investigation".
"The Uighur in Xinjiang are experiencing ... organ harvesting, measures to prevent women giving birth and the forcible transfer of Uighur children out of their community," she said.
Ms Wall confirmed a recruitment drive to find new alliance members was on, and several MPs have confirmed to AAP interest in joining.
"Simon and I are hopeful more colleagues across our NZ parliament will join us," Ms Wall said.
New members could come from the Labour government, the National opposition, or the more vocal left-wing Greens or right-wing ACT.
Their common thread is that no MP wants to affect the trade relationship NZ has carefully cultivated with China.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta toughened her language on China this week, saying NZ was at risk of - as is occurring with Australia - being dragged into or a trade backlash or criticism.
"It may only be a matter of time before the storm gets closer to us," she told the Guardian.
Also this week, Ms Ardern refused to verify the scandalous claim she struck a deal with the opposition to move on two MPs because of links to the Chinese government.
Labour MP Raymond Huo and National MP Jian Yang both ended their parliamentary careers last year.
And later this week, Australia's 60 Minutes has promised an expose on NZ links to China, which it has teased with a incendiary promotional clip where it labels the country "New Xi-Land".
The maelstrom of activity sets the stage for Mr Morrison and Ms Ardern's formal talks on Monday, with China firmly on the agenda.
Australian Associated Press