U-turn on re­lease of info on MP

Ex­clu­sive Yang didn't clearly dis­close con­nec­tions to Chi­nese mil­i­tary in­sti­tu­tions in cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tion

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Matt Nip­pert

Anewly re-elected Na­tional Party MP said to have been in­ves­ti­gated by New Zealand’s in­tel­li­gence agen­cies did not dis­close links to Chi­nese mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence when be­com­ing a ci­ti­zen, doc­u­ments show.

Newly unredacted doc­u­ments from Jian Yang’s 2004 cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tion show Yang, who moved to New Zealand in 1999, did not list the 15 years he spent study­ing and work­ing at the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Air Force En­gi­neer­ing Acad­emy and the Luoyang For­eign Lan­guages In­sti­tute from 1978.

Both in­sti­tu­tions are part of China’s mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence ap­pa­ra­tus.

Yang’s links, and sub­se­quent rise to a po­si­tion of po­lit­i­cal power in New Zealand, has stoked con­cerns of our tra­di­tional al­lies over the grow­ing su­per­power’s soft-in­flu­ence cam­paign in the re­gion.

In Aus­tralia, the is­sue of Chi­nese in­flu­ence has at­tracted na­tional con­cerns and led to of­fi­cial warn­ings from the univer­sity sec­tor and the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

In his cit­i­zen­ship dis­clo­sures, Yang lists only his work and study his­tory at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Auck­land.

Yang did not im­me­di­ately re­turn calls last night.

The cit­i­zen­ship file had been re­leased, fol­low­ing pub­lic clam­our, the week prior to the elec­tion, but heavy redac­tions — said to pro­tect Yang’s pri­vacy — meant it was im­pos­si­ble to see what, if any, dis­clo­sures he had made about spy his­tory in China.

The Her­ald com­plained to the Om­buds­man about these redac­tions, forc­ing a re­think at the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs.

A spokesman for the Om­buds­man’s of­fice yes­ter­day af­ter­noon said: “DIA have re­con­sid­ered its de­ci­sion to with­hold Dr Yang’s an­swers to the study and work his­tory ques­tions on the cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tion.”

In a press con­fer­ence af­ter news of his back­ground broke, Yang said he had served as a civil­ian of­fi­cer in the PLA and was re­quired to not name the in­sti­tu­tions as a con­di­tion of be­ing al­lowed to leave China.

He said he was not a spy, but con­ceded he was in­volved in train­ing spies to as­sess in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Yang said he in­stead re­ferred on ap­pli­ca­tions to “part­ner­ship” civil­ian uni­ver­si­ties who had a re­la­tion­ship with the mil­i­tary in­sti­tu­tions.

“It is not that I am de­lib­er­ately try­ing to cover-up. It’s be­cause the sys­tem asked me to use the part­ner univer­sity,” he said.

At the time Yang de­nied mak­ing false dec­la­ra­tions when be­com­ing a ci­ti­zen — a pre­req­ui­site to be­ing able to en­ter Par­lia­ment — but said he was re­view­ing his cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tion to make sure it was cor­rect.

Yang re-en­tered Par­lia­ment at last month’s gen­eral elec­tion, hav­ing first been elected in the 2011 elec­tion, af­ter se­cur­ing a plac­ing of 33 on the re­cent Na­tional Party list.

The Fi­nan­cial Times and News­room last month broke news of Yang’s past and re­ported the Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice had taken an in­ter­est in Yang’s back­ground.

The in­tel­li­gence agency was said to have been con­duct­ing in­ter­views with peo­ple fa­mil­iar with his ac­tiv­i­ties as re­cently as last year.

In March of that year, Yang was re­moved from the for­eign af­fairs, de­fence and trade par­lia­men­tary se­lect com­mit­tee where he had served since Oc­to­ber 2014.

This week the SIS de­clined again to an­swer any ques­tions about Yang, cit­ing na­tional se­cu­rity as a rea­son for with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion.

“NZSIS does not com­ment on spe­cific cases or in­di­vid­u­als,” a spokesman for the spy agency said.

Jian Yang

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