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New Zealand MP Jian Yang denies being a Chinese spy

14 September 2017
New Zealand MP Jian Yang denies being a Chinese spy

A New Zealand government MP has admitted teaching English to Chinese spies when he was a lecturer at a language institute run by China's spy agency.

In a statement, Yang refuted any allegations that "question my loyalty to New Zealand".

'I have been nothing but upfront and transparent about my education and employment, ' he said.

A China-born member of New Zealand's parliament is now having to fend off accusations that he was trained as a spy in his home country after a media investigation unearthed some concerning details about his allegedly hidden past.

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.

According to the Newsroom, New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service has scurtinized Yang at times over the past three years because of his background.

"I challenge those who are propagating these defamatory statements to front up and prove them", he said.

He called himself a victim of a "smear campaign by nameless people" out to damage him and the party just before the Sept 23 general election, which is expected to be a tight race.

"We have to remember this is a New Zealand we are talking about", English said.

"Everyone I know who's attended the Luoyang Foreign Language Institute has been in Chinese military intelligence or at least linked to that system", Peter Mattis, a Jamestown Foundation expert on China's military and intelligence, was quoted as saying.

The CV also showed that from 1982 to 1987 he worked as a "teaching assistant (associate lecturer)" at the former and a lecturer at the latter from 1990 until 1993 when he moved to Australia to study at the Australian National University.

'If you define those cadets or students as spies, yes, then I was teaching spies, ' he said. "I don't think so".

However, at a press conference on Wednesday, Yang was forced to admit that while serving as a "civilian officer" paid by the Chinese military he had perhaps taught English to Chinese spies. "You don't need to write too much about myself", he reportedly said. "I just think they are collecting information through communication in China".

The prime minister, Bill English, told reporters he had been aware of Yang's background and did not believe the Chinese politician had tried to hide it.

Dr Yang said he had not had any involvement with the Communist Party since leaving China in 1994.

China is one of our largest trading partners, but not for this reason alone should we do more to understand it rather than whipping up hysteria akin to "Reds under the Bed" - reminiscent of the Muldoon years.

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".