New Zealand MP admits teaching Chinese spies

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks to a large crowd at the Fullwood Room in the

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks to a large crowd at the Fullwood Room in the

A New Zealand MP has denied allegations he is a Chinese spy, saying he has been the target of a racist smear campaign.

"I have been nothing but upfront and transparent about my education and employment".

Yang said he was proud to call himself a New Zealander and contribute to his new country.

Dr Yang was a student at the People's Liberation Army Air Force Engineering College and the Luoyang language institute, run by the agency responsible for Chinese spying. He then went on to the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute, an elite institution for China's military intelligence officers, the report added.

Sources told Newsroom this meant Dr Yang would have been a member of the Communist Party and an officer in the Chinese army's military intelligence.

A joint investigation by Newsroom and Hong Kong's Financial Times claims New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service has investigated the Chinese-born MP, including interviewing a person about him past year.

'I challenge those who are propagating these defamatory statements to front up and prove them.

Former senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst Christopher Johnson told the FT that "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", and that "it may also be using [New Zealand] as a testing ground for future operations in other countries".

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.

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

"If you define those cadets or students as spies, yes, then I was teaching spies", he admitted on Wednesday. "[But] I don't think [they were spies] ..."

He said his students only collected information through communications in China.

In his six years as an MP for New Zealand's ruling National party, Yang has been a vocal supporter of China's Communist party.

Peter Goodfellow, the president of the National Party, told Newsroom that he had "no idea" about the investigation but had been aware of Yang's background, and warned, "You're making a number of assumptions based on his background and I'd be careful unless you have proof of what you're saying".

The reporter at FT who wrote the initial story on Yang, Jamil Anderlini, also followed up, arguing (paywall) that the "just because I am Chinese" defense is highly problematic.

Prime Minister Bill English said on Wednesday afternoon that Yang's loyalty to New Zealand had never been questioned.

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