New Zealand MP Jian Yang denies being a Chinese spy

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).

A New Zealand lawmaker who was born in China said yesterday he taught Chinese spies while working at that nation's elite military colleges but had never engaged in any intelligence activities himself and was loyal to his new nation.

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

However Dr Yang says the allegations against him are a "smear campaign", and denies passing on any information to China during his time in New Zealand.

In its report, Newsroom said he went to Australia and attended the Australian National University before moving to New Zealand, where he taught worldwide relations at the University of Auckland.

Prime Minister Bill English and the National Party needed to "seriously explain themselves", over the issue, Peters said.

If you define those cadets or students as spies, yes, then I was teaching spies.

Yang said he'd taught university students English language and American studies.

"I don't care if it is a white cat or a black cat", the National party legislator said. His current portfolio covers ethnic communities, and he previously sat on the select committee for foreign affairs, defense and trade.

It is also concerning because New Zealand is a member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence sharing alliance, that includes the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia.

"China has been very active in recent years placing and cultivating people at the grassroots political levels of Western democracies and helping them to reach positions of influence", said Mr Christopher Johnson, a former senior China analyst at the US Central Intelligence Agency, according to FT.

China is one of New Zealand's top trading partners.

News outlets and opposition politicians in New Zealand pounced on Yang's admission that he "was teaching spies" how to parse English communications at the Luoyang Foreign Language Institute, with many arguing that the fact this was not widely known until now is a major scandal.

Winston Peters talks to media about Dr Yang.

A spokesman for China's ministry of foreign affairs said it did not usually comment on the internal affairs of other countries - but stated "we are firmly opposed to false reports, groundless accusations and falsifications from some media".

  • Eleanor Harrison