WELLINGTON: A New Zealand lawmaker received military and intelligence training in China, it emerged Wednesday (Sep 13), but he denied allegations of being a Beijing spy, saying he was the victim of a racist smear campaign.
China-born MP Jian Yang was the subject of an investigation by New Zealand's intelligence services over his links to an elite Chinese spy school, according to a joint investigation by the Financial Times (FT) and newsroom.co.nz.
The media organisations said Yang, who was elected to parliament in 2011, had not disclosed his background as a teacher at China's top linguistics academy for military intelligence officers.
New Zealand is a member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing network, which also includes the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia.
The FT said no other Western nation was known to have a sitting MP with such extensive links to China's intelligence community. The revelation "raises questions about Western preparedness to deal with China's increasingly aggressive efforts to influence foreign governments and spy on them," said the newspaper.
Yang condemned the "defamatory statements" and said he was a proud New Zealander who had been transparent about his background. He also questioned the timing of the allegations ahead of a Sep 23 election, in which his ruling National Party is in a tight race to retain power.
"This is a smear campaign by nameless people who are out to damage me and the National Party 10 days from an election, just because I am Chinese," he said in a statement.
Prime Minister Bill English refused to comment on whether New Zealand intelligence services had investigated Yang. But he said Yang had never tried to hide that he had had military and intelligence training in China, saying that it did not bring his loyalty to New Zealand into question.
"He's functioned appropriately as a member of parliament and there hasn't been a question about his loyalty to New Zealand," English told Radio NZ.
Following the reports, the National Party released a resume submitted by Yang in 2012 that listed the Chinese government institutions he had supposedly tried to keep secret.
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".