New Zealand PM sticks up for MP accused of being a spy

Marcus Newton
September 15, 2017

The Financial Times reports (paywall) that Yang, a man whose background meant that he would not have been able to leave China without the permission of authorities, and who would not have been able to pass a security clearance for non-legislative work in the New Zealand government, has been investigated by the country's Security Intelligence Service (SIS).

"If you define those cadets or students as spies, yes, then I was teaching spies", he admitted on Wednesday.

But National's Jian Yang says to him they were just students collecting information by monitoring the communications of other countries.

Mr Yang told reporters yesterday he never tried to hide his background but but had not always highlighted it either, because Kiwis might have felt sensitive about his ties to the Chinese military.

National Party leader and Prime Minister Bill English and party president Peter Goodfellow, who recruited Dr Yang in 2011, both said that they were aware of his military background.

According to the New Zealand Herald the 55-year-old MP rejected the accusations as a racist "smear campaign" targeting him "just because I am Chinese".

The information was uncovered during a joint investigation between the Financial Times and Newsroom, an independent New Zealand-based media group.

He says it's unfortunate this controversy has arisen so close to the election but New Zealand has to establish some clear boundaries on who can be eligible to be an MP.

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However Mr Peters says he is concerned and is calling for action.

He said he had been upfront and transparent about his education and employment and was the victim of a smear campaign 10 days before a general election.

Dr Yang said his students did not do any 'physical spying, like going overseas or these things'.

FT said he "has consistently pushed for closer ties" with China, and also "for worldwide policies that echoed those of the Chinese Communist Party". His current portfolio covers ethnic communities, and he previously sat on the select committee for foreign affairs, defense and trade.

"You get to know people as MPs and I think from early on I've been aware that he had military training including military intelligence", he said.

He warned that while Beijing appeared to see New Zealand as a softer target than countries such as the United States and Britain, "it may also be using it as a testing ground for future operations in other countries".

He called for an urgent inquiry into Jian Yang's involvement with Chinese spy agencies.

He also used the opportunity to lash out at Chinese ownership in New Zealand, including Silver Fern Farms, which has its headquarters in Dunedin.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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