Chinese-born New Zealand MP probed by country’s top spy agency

A Chinese-born politician in New Zealand is allegedly under investigation by the country’s Security Intelligence Service (SIS) for his educational and teaching background at elite Chinese military colleges that train intelligence officers. The allegations stem from a joint investigation by the Financial Times and New Zealand's Newsroom.

Jian Yang has represented New Zealand’s governing National Party in parliament since 2011 and served on a committee for foreign affairs, defense and trade from October 2014 to March 2016. He has also been a prominent fundraiser for the party. Prior to his move to New Zealand to pursue an academic career in 1994, Yang had spent more than 10 years teaching at his alma mater, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Engineering Academy, and at the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute. These affiliations would suggest that he was a member of the Communist Party member.

The reports on the investigation have triggered an alarmed debate in New Zealand, including a call to follow Australia’s example in introducing a law against foreign interference activities.

The speculations about Yang are in line with similar reports on China’s activities to influence politics in Australia, as well as with the expulsion of Chinese-American professor Huang Jing from Singapore for attempting to influence the government in collaboration with Chinese intelligence agents.

Yang responded to the reports by saying that he had not been an active CCP member and had not had any contact with Chinese intelligence agents since he left China. He also spoke of a “smear campaign by nameless people” who wanted to inflict damage on him and the National Party shortly before the elections, “just because I am Chinese.” New Zealand’s general elections will take place on September 23.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry distanced itself from the event by stressing that Yang is a New Zealand citizen and that China does not comment on other countries’ domestic affairs.