The swamp

What has New Zealand politics come to when someone who was (until a few days ago) a senior frontbench member of our largest political party claims that he was active –  as recently as a few months ago – in collecting very large donations from an open and avowed supporter of one of the most egregious regimes on the planet.   And goes further to suggest that his party leader was not only active in soliciting such donations –  and whether the words are used or not, when senior politicians turn up for dinner at the house of a wealthy person who doesn’t speak English, there isn’t much doubt what the visit is really about  –  but may, illegally so the MP claims, have sought to enable the fact of such donations to be masked from public scrutiny. (Those latter claims are the issue in law, but in many ways they should be less of a political issue than the wider environment this episode sheds fresh light on.)

And when no other member of that political party, or any other political party, is willing to speak out about the culture that our politicians and political parties –  all of them it appears –  have fostered.  Why?  Because the other side is quite as heavily involved in this “donations for acquiescence (or worse)” business.

After all, the Herald reveals this morning that although the Labour/New Zealand First government was directly responsible for the honour recently bestowed on Yikun Zhang, the nomination was a joint effort of National MP –  former PLA intelligence official, Communist Party member, and active fundraiser – Jian Yang, former National Party MP Eric Roy, and former Labour leader and Mayor of Auckland –  recipient of a very large anonymous donation from mainland China to his campaign, in an event organised by Labour MP Raymond Huo –  Phil Goff.    Yikun Zhang is photographed posing earlier this year with the Prime Minister, and in Labour Party group including party president Nigel Haworth –  on record, in the last year as more and more is learned of the new and egregious evils of the PRC regime, praising Xi Jinping and celebrating the PRC regime.

And, of course, not a word is heard from any of them –  Jacinda Ardern, Winston Peters, Nigel Haworth, Peter Goodfellow, Simon Bridges, Gerry Brownlee, Todd McClay (or Jian Yang or Raymond Huo) – about:

  • the mass imprisonments in Xinjiang,
  • the continued illegal PRC militarisation of the South China Sea,
  • the increased repression of religions (and Falun Gong) across China,
  • the rollout of the “social credit” system of repression and control,
  • the growing threat to free and democratic Taiwan, or
  • the increasing erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.

In fact, as a government minister only last year, Simon Bridges was signing official agreements with the PRC regime committing to an aspirational goal of a “fusion of civilisations”.

What of Yikun Zhang?  He is a leading figure in PRC United Front activities in New Zealand.  That’s not my interpretation, it is the view of the most prominent New Zeland expert on these matters.

Consistent with this, he was among the United Front people invited to Beijing to participate in the 90th anniversary celebrations for the People’s Liberation Army.

On 30 July 2017, Zhang Yikun, a former military servant was invited to participate the military parade in Beijing for the celebration of the 90th anniversary of PLA establishment.

Zhang said to Chinese media, “ As a veteran, now a overseas Chinese community leaders, I felt deeply excited for the tremendous achievements in the national defense  of my homeland. “

Perhaps someone could ask him, no doubt through a translator, about the South China Sea militarisation.

Only late last year, he was leading a delegation –  that included Eric Roy and Southland mayor (see yesterday’s post) Gary Tong  –  to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council –  then one of the key institutional entities in the PRC influence activities in and through ethnic Chinese communities abroad.

I could go on –  I’ve been sent numerous links to Chinese language articles, which one can run through Google Translate –  but the character of the man is pretty clear.  After 15+ years in New Zealand he hasn’t learned English, he remains close to various PRC bodies including the embassy/consulate in New Zealand, is actively involved in various United Front entities and activities (including the cultural associations, which aren’t simply the equivalent of the Cornwall or Sussex associations, but vehicles through which the PRC seeks to exert control over ethnic Chinese in other countries)…..and he seems to assiduously cultivate connections to key figures in both our main parties (at least) –  and, in turn (and this is the real shame) to be courted by them.    And they give him official honours, for what seem –  in effect –  to be primarily services to the PRC.  Did I mention that it was one of the most egregiously evil, and outwardly aggressive, regimes on the planet?

It is pretty bad that we have allowed people like this to achieve such prominence in our society.   We should, and generally do, welcome people who want to come from China to escape the evils of the regime, and embrace freedom, democracy, transparency and a (until relatively recently) uncorrupt society.   Rather like people escaping to the West from Germany in the 1930s.   But what we seem to be doing is facilitating the functional equivalent of Nazi Party front organisations in Britain or France in the 1930s, and not just accommodating them but embracing them…..for the money.

But evil regimes will do what they do.  What we can, or should control, is what we tolerate –  whether as politicians and political party figures, or as voters.  Our political leaders seem to have no appetite for anything much other than keeping the donations flowing –  and maybe worse if the full extent of Ross’s allegations happen to be true.  They don’t seem to value what made New Zealand one of the world’s best and finest democracies –  part of what made good people want to come here –  or, if they still tell themselves they do, they seem to attempt to compartmentalise in ways that are simply untenable.  Our parties and politicians need to learn to say no.  And we need to demand that they do so.

It is well past time to drain the swamp of New Zealand politics.  If only there were any real hope of that happening.

(For those interested there is a useful background article on Yikun Zhang on Newsroom and interesting – non-controversial –  account of his own life here.)