Recalling Jian Yang’s past: questions for him and his leader

It was two years ago last Friday that Newsroom and the Financial Times jointly broke the story of National list MP Jian Yang’s past, as a Chinese Communist Party member and fifteen years spent as a trainer in the PLA military intelligence system.   There was a strong suggestion that he had been removed from Parliament’s foreign affairs committee after the New Zealand security services discovered his past and had drawn it to the attention of the then Prime Minister.    Anne-Marie Brady’s Magic Weapons working paper was released at about the same time, highlighting the extent of PRC attempts to influence, or interfere in, affairs in New Zealand.

A bit more of Jian Yang’s story seeped out over the following few months, including his residency application documents for New Zealand, in which –  so he later acknowledged –  he had actively chosen to misrepresent his past, (so he also told us) on the instructions of Beijing.      There was also rather more confirmation of just how close to the PRC Embassy in New Zealand Jian Yang is and was –  leading one serious government relations type, with a diplomatic background, to go on record stating that he was always very careful what he said around Jian Yang (and Raymond Huo, once again a Labour MP).   The implication –  never stated directly –  was that whatever was said around him might well end up in the hands of the PRC Embassy.  At the time, of course, Jian Yang was full member of the government caucus, and although Cabinets often keeps their own caucuses in the dark about some things, caucus members generally know more than you or I do about what the government is up to, or is thinking.

But after that brief flurry the issue died down.    Labour and the Greens showed no interest in questioning whether someone of that background, never once heard to utter a word of criticism of the PRC, should really be serving in our Parliament.  National closed ranks behind Jian Yang –  not once in the subsequent two years has a single past or present National MP expressed as much as an iota of concern.   And Jian Yang went quiet, simply refusing to talk at all to any English-language media (despite English being the first language of most of National’s voters), but only too happy to talk to quiescent regime-complicit Chinese language outlets.   If you can get away with it –  and have all the morals that must have accompanied CCP membership and service with PLA military intelligence –  I suppose why would you do anything else?  People –  all of us – respond to incentives and –  given his actual background –  simply going to ground and staying there must have looked quite the most attractive option.

Optimists –  naive ones perhaps –  wondered if perhaps National, embarrassed to have been caught out, would gradually sideline Jian Yang and he’d eventually quietly step aside by the next election, perhaps to be replaced with another regime-sympathetic,  well-connected, good-with-the-donors recent migrant, but one without such an uncomfortable back story.

Silly them (well, in my optimistic moments perhaps I was one of them).

For Jian Yang is still with us.  Still not talking to the English-language media (except a few comments in his rather ineffectual service as National’s spokesman on Statistics), still sharing an office in Auckland with fellow list MP (and now National’s Finance spokesman) Paul Goldsmith, recently promoted to chair the (not overly important) Governance and Administration Committee of Parliament, still in business with National Party president (and regime cheerleader) Peter Goodfellow), and……most recently, accompanying Simon Bridges on his trip to the PRC, including that gruesomely awful fawning interview with CGTN (saying what so much of the rest of the New Zealand establishment only support in practice by their silence) and his meeting with Guo Shengkun, the Politburo member responsible for the entire apparatus of repression (“law and order”) in the PRC, including the concentration camps in Xinjiang.   Yes, it was a big week for Jian Yang.  If Simon Bridges wasn’t just regurgitating briefing notes from Jian Yang, he might as well have been.  The Embassy will have been pleased.   Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jian Yang was out in the media (Chinese language only) praising his leader for his praise of the CCP  (Raymond Huo was also out praising Bridges, at least until he deleted the relevant tweet).

And not a peep out of any other political party expressing any concern about Jian Yang (or Bridges).

That tawdry episode –  Bridges abasing himself before the PRC, aided and abetted by their own (former) man now sitting in his caucus –  was a bit much for Daisy Lee, an independent researcher born and raised in the PRC, and now living in Auckland.  (There was some background on Daisy and her husband –  he’d been a Tiananmen Square protestor in 1989 –  in this Sunday Star-Times article.)  Daisy has written an article on Jian Yang and his place in the National Party, and asked if I would run it here.  I helped her with some of the English, but it is her text, her stories, and her challenges to Jian Yang (and, at least by implication) to the National Party.

Of his residency application, she reminds us

In this nine-page document, Jian Yang declared that the whole period from 1978 until 1993, the year he departed for Australia was spent solely at one school, Luoyang University.

But the facts reveal, and Jian Yang later acknowledged, that the relevant certificates are falsely made to cover up his total 15 years with the two military universities, the PLA Air Force Engineering Institute and Luoyang PLA University of Foreign Language. The notarised document in both Chinese and English declares that Jian Yang enrolled in Luoyang University in 1978. But a simple search – Wikipedia or the Chinese Baidu – indicates that that university wasn’t even founded until 1980.

Jian Yang eventually told us that Beijing instructed him to misrepresent his past, but never explained the notarised certificate. It won’t be just anyone who has the authority to instruct a state-owned university to issue a series of false documents just to satisfy a request from an ordinary Chinese citizen. Chinese intelligence authorities perhaps?

It is commonly understood among the Chinese community that an active serviceman in China is not allowed to emigrate overseas, and does not even have an ordinary citizen’s passport.

The sort of thing that should bother the National Party, you’d once have hoped.

Jian Yang seems to spend a great deal of time with regime-sympathetic Chinese in New Zealand.  Daisy asks about others from the PRC.

In the past two years I have seen Jian Yang’s smiling face on his sign displayed on Auckland’s Great South Road. The same smile I have seen in pictures of a number of occasions including him meeting Politburo member Guo Shengkun on his recent trip to China with Simon Bridges, and his visit to the new PRC consul general in Auckland with the National Party’s president Peter Goodfellow in July.

I hope that one day Jian Yang will smile on some other groups from China. Among the Chinese diaspora they include Falun Gong practitioners and human rights activists. They also include the Xinjiang Uyghurs, exiled Tibetans, and members of house churches in China. Most of them fled to New Zealand to escape persecution. Many don’t speak much English and so aren’t easily about to tell their stories to National’s leaders.

Meanwhile, these same people see Simon Bridges and Jian Yang meeting with Guo Shengkun. From a regime keen to suggest to Chinese diasporas that they are not beyond Beijing’s reach, what sort of chilling message must that send?

Even among those with less immediate reason to fear

I could have chosen not to write this article, but the embarrassment of Simon Bridges’ performance in the staged interview with CGTN, the CCP’s English-language mouthpiece, has led me to decide to give Jian Yang a chance.

A chance to stop encouraging and assisting New Zealand politicians like Simon Bridges to worship the brutal regime and people like its representative Guo Shengkun, one of the most powerful figures in the CCP who is responsible for all of the religious and political repression apparatus. To stop praising the CCP. And to stop hiding from the local English-language media, or anyone who might ask awkward questions.

Over the last two to three decades, there have been significantly increasing numbers of Chinese who have moved overseas and the majority of these immigrants are well educated middle class and business people. The main reason for them to leave China is that they hated the corruption, pollution, and suppression which are all the problems caused by the CCP’s 70 years in power.

It is naive to believe pro-CCP politicians can receive more votes from their Chinese constituents for praising Xi and Guo, or for being silent about a brutal regime that continues to corrupt and repress their families and relatives in China.

(Daisy might be right about that, although evidence to date suggests it is a rather good values-free fundraising strategy.)

She ends

The next election is approaching and the public deserve better answers from Jian Yang.

The full article is here.

One can only agree that there are hard questions that Jian Yang should answer.

But personally I reckon Peter Goodfellow and successive National Party leaders (Key, English, and Bridges) are now –  fixed with knowledge – just as culpable, if not more so and shouldn’t be allowed off the hook.  For the earlier leaders, the questions should be along the lines of “what did you know and when did you know it?” and “what steps did you take to ensure that as an MP Jian Yang is operating only in the interests of New Zealand, not those of the PRC?”   For Bridges, why do regard it as appropriate to have a (former?) CCP member, former longserving member of the PLA military intelligence system, who has never said a word of criticism of the PRC or the CCP, and who remains very close to the PRC Embassy as a serving member of your caucus?  Would you be willing to have Jian Yang serving as a minister in a future National government (and if not, why not)?  And so on.    The questions could usefully be extended to all current National MPs, every single one of whom was elected in 2017 (or came in on the list since) knowing they would serve with Jian Yang, and not one of whom has been willing to express even a scintilla of public concern or unease  (perhaps someone has had private concerns, but after this amount of time private concerns count for little or nothing –  as members of Parliament you have a higher duty than to mere “caucus discipline”).

And then, of course, we could extend the questions to the Prime Minister and to the leaders of the Green Party.  Why, for example, have you expressed precisely no concern about this individual –  with such a questionable background –  serving in New Zealand’s Parliament?  And, of course, Winston Peters who did once express some concern, but no longer does so.  Beijing probably wouldn’t like it if he did –  nor, probably, would the Prime Minister.

And, of course, there are the agencies –  MBIE and DIA –  that gave Jian Yang residency and citizenship on the basis of false documents.  Is anything ever going to be done.  If not, why not?

Are there any values that guide our political class around the PRC?   Fear and opportunism don’t count.

There has been a very robust debate in Australia over the last week or so about the regime affiliations of new Liberal backbencher Gladys Liu (lots of extracts from various perspectives here).     Seems to me that although there are legitimate and important questions to ask about Gladys Liu, what has emerged to date raises far fewer questions than Jian Yang’s position should.  And yet the media and the political classes passed over in silence the two-year anniversary of learning of Jian Yang’s background, serving one of the most dreadful regimes on the planet, none of it recanted, even as he himself chose to join his leader in print praising the Party.   They will be happy in Beijing.   Could they have imagined on 1 October 1949 having such a quiescent and compromised dependency in the South Pacific only 70 years later?

The rest of us –  ethnic Chinese and otherwise – should be alarmed, by Jian Yang himself and by those who continue to make space for him to serve in New Zealand’s Parliament consciously choosing to ignore (or even embrace) how compromised he appears to be.


23 thoughts on “Recalling Jian Yang’s past: questions for him and his leader

  1. It’s impossible to follow the roasting of Gladys Liu in Australia and not compare it with the cavalier approach of our politicians and most of our media towards Jian Yang sitting as an MP in our Parliament. Liu was asked directly by Andrew Bolt on TV if she would call Xi Jinping a dictator (she wouldn’t) and she also wouldn’t back Australia’s official position on the illegality of the islands commandeered in the South China Sea by China.
    Jian Yang never gets asked these questions because he simply won’t answer questions from English-speaking journalists — and Simon Bridges never tells him to face the cameras (and the voters who put him into Parliament).
    It’s simply shocking… thanks, Michael, for not letting this issue fall out of sight.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I wrote to my National party MP (who happens to be an exceptionally interesting and promising MP) sadly informing him that I cannot vote for National until this issue is resolved. All it would take is for Jian Yang to say he thinks the current treatment of Uyghurs is excessive or something similar. The public needs to hear him in both English and Chinese answering a few difficult questions. In an ideal world the same questions should be asked on Raymond Huo too.

    If sufficient voters do the same we may make progress.

    Is there any chance of Daisy Lee standing for parliament?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The National Party in the past decade has wiped its backside on its constitution and it has corrupted itself in the name of money. I agree with you Bob – I cannot vote National while Jian is in Parliament (but it’s also a pretty big challenge to vote for any of the Parties currently in Parliament since they’ve all – possibly with the exception of ACT – corrupted themselves.

    I don’t believe for a minute that Jian is NOT acting on behalf of the CPC/China. A Party member has no more ability to leave the Party than a Mob Don has to leave the Mafia. If he has good relations with the PRC, then he’s still active. He has two masters and New Zealand’s interests are subordinated to Beijing.

    We are losing our Independence Day-by-day and our political leaders are facilitating it.

    It disgusts (and frightens) me.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for publishing that. Getting the perspective of mainland Chinese migrants is critical in these discussions opics – they can show context which NZers cannot, and the first tool of attack by the pro-PRC lapdogs, racisim, does not work.

    In the case of Jian Yang, although I am not a fan of law intruding into politics (the UK right now is a case in point) the best course of action would be (somehow) to force the Minister of Internal Affairs to strip Jian Yang of his citizenship. There are grounds for stripping citizenship from a citizen “by grant” on the grounds of: fraud, false representation, or information you deliberately concealed when you applied for citizenship. At least one and perhaps all three apply in his case.

    If this got into court, it would create momentum of its own and bring the topic into the sunshine….

    Quite how one achieves this isn’t clear – I suppose one could write to the minister requesting he/she considers the matter and makes a decision. That decision could then be judicially reviewed… I don’t think the court could determine the matter itself…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Interesting solution. While I remain a fan of MMP it has to be said that list MPs simply don’t have the authority of those voted by a majority of their electorate. In general I am against any system that has courts overrule the decision of the electorate whatever the sins of the MP.


      • Yes but he sits as an MP because he is a citizen (that is a requirement to be an MP). In my view, someone with his background has no right to be a citizen. And if no longer an citizen, he can no longer be an MP. By his own admission his citizenship application (or was it residency) contained misleading statements, made at the behest of a foreign power… at any level, this person has no moral argument to be a NZ citizen… like many of the other dodgy donor “citizens” identified recently, this status is merely a flag of convenience.

        Frankly it is bad enough how easily citizenship seems to have been given away in recent years. If a conservative, patriotic party were to form in NZ, I would urge it to tighten citizenship rules (a strict language requirement for English or Maori, renunciation of other citizenships, plus serious vetting for certain “high risk” applicants) but additionally to conduct a retrospective analysis of the grant of citizenship for certain people starting with Jian Yang…

        Liked by 2 people

    • “There are grounds for stripping citizenship from a citizen “by grant” on the grounds of: fraud, false representation, or information you deliberately concealed when you applied for citizenship”

      There are…but not if it would render the citizen stateless.

      The irony of it is Jian Yang by being a NZ citizen, had to cancel his Chinese citizenship, as China does not allow dual citizenship.

      So if Jian Yang was stripped of NZ citizenship he would be rendered stateless, which is currently unlawful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Many years ago I was told that a country is obliged to reinstate original citizenship. Informant a diplomat in PNG and talking about the handful of Australians who had renounced their citizenship to become Papua new Guinean. Of course China does not have a perfect record at obeying international standards.


      • China claims that all ethnic Chinese are within its purview. He wouldn’t be stateless for long, but that’s the catch-22


  5. That Jian Yang worked at the Luoyang PLA University of Foreign Languages is evidence enough of being part of the Chinese Intelligence network. These positions would only be filled by recruits and officers of the intelligence service. These are not jobs you casually enter and leave later. You are an operative for life.

    It’s not difficult to find information on the Luoyang PLA University of Foreign Languages;

    ” China maintains the most extensive SIGINT network of all the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. SIGINT systems include several dozen ground stations, half a dozen ships, truck-mounted systems, and airborne systems. Third Department headquarters is located in the vicinity of the GSD First Department (Operations Department), AMS, and NDU complex in the hills northwest of the Summer Palace. The Third Department (zongcan sanbu) is allegedly manned by approximately 20,000 personnel, with most of their linguists trained at the Luoyang Institute of Foreign Languages.

    Ever since the 1950’s, the Second and Third Departments of the PLA General Staff Headquarters have established a number of institutions of secondary and higher learning for bringing up “special talents.”

    The PLA Foreign Language Institute at Luoyang comes under the Third Department of the General Staff Department and is responsible for training foreign language cadres for the monitoring of foreign military intelligence. The Institute was formed from the PLA “793” Foreign Language Institute, which moved from Zhangjiakou after the Cultural Revolution and split into two institutions at Luoyang and Nanjing.

    Though the distribution order they received upon graduation indicated the “PLA General Staff Headquarters,” many of the graduates of these schools found themselves being sent to all parts of the country, even to remote and uninhabited backward mountain areas. The reason is that the monitoring and control stations under the Third Department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters are scattered in every corner of the country.”

    Can anyone in the National Party explain why they would not be concerned about any MP who formerly worked or studied at the Luoyang Institiute of Foreign Languages? Any such person must be seen as a having high probability of being an operative of Chinese Intelligence services.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Like others I have made clear to National Party candidates that I cannot support their party while this man remains in Parliament and National continues its supine, meretricious relationship with the Chinese Communist Party. They are a disgrace. It seems the only approach available may be to demand a review of Jian Yang’s citizenship application in light of the fact that he omitted relevant information. How can we pursue this? What does the legislation allow for?


    • The relevant legislation is the Citizenship Act 1977, s. 17(2) and possibly (3). A commentator above pointed out that JY had to renounce his Chinese citizenship to obtain NZ citizenship and to deprive him of his NZ citizenship now would leave him stateless, which is not permitted under the legislation (we can only take his word about this renunciation – it is not required by the NZ DIA so maybe it hasn’t happened).

      I read s. 17(3) differently – “The Minister may not deprive a person of New Zealand citizenship under subsection (2) if—
      the citizenship was acquired by mistake; ****and****
      to deprive the person of that citizenship would leave the person stateless.

      The condition at (a) does not apply, so this would not be a block in JY’s case.

      If you read s. 17 you will note it is driven by the Minister – there is no scope for citizens to independently raise a challenge. The exericse of discretion may be judicially reviewed – I guess this could either be a review of the original grant of citizenship (but this is some time in the past now), or a review of the current Minister’s refusal to exercise this discretion (assuming the Minister says no, which I think is likely). For the latter scenario, someone would have to make this request – quite how this goes legally is outside my present knowledge.


      • I checked the NZ Herald article where they cite his citizenship application made in 2004 – the problem I see is that it only asks about employment, addresses in the past ten years, which has dates going back to 1994 for Australia. There is a section on education history which is not time limited, and here he hasn’t mentioned either of the non-Australasian academic experience – but arguably this isn’t the point of the section – the preamble seems more concerned with showing academic experience in English speaking institutions…


  7. An interesting article in Foreign Affairs this Week (US) Sept 16, by Kristine Lee, on China moving into the UN space the US is vacating. The headline says it all,
    Coming Soon to the United Nations: Chinese Leadership and Authoritarian Values. As Washington Steps Back, Beijing Will Take Charge


      • Yet what other forum is there that draws the nations together and at least enables them to talk. Denying your present enemy, Iran in this case, the necessary visas to attend, will only hasten its demise. In spite of the UN’s impotence in many areas, Churchill’s encouragement of jaw jaw has a lot to commend it. So it is worth maintaining.
        If the US withdrawal does become China’s opportunity, the world may reconsider. In which case will Avaaz become the way people make their global wishes known?


      • Maybe, but i wonder if the UN has ever made much difference to (been an important forum for resolving) major crises. Great powers talk when they need to, directly or thru intermediaries, individually or in groups. Wasn’t it ever thus? Maybe – just maybe – the vision made some sense in 1945 (among allies who’d united in a common cause) but even by 1950 the UN was only able to act in Korea because the Soviets were boycotting the UN at the time.


  8. I emailed the Immigration Minister last week to ask why Jian Yang is still in the country given the crucial omissions from his immigration application. Did this as an OIA request.

    Will let you know the response in 20 working days…


  9. I have been watching China with growing disquiet as well.

    I am following Professor Anne Marie Brady on Twitter. Her tweets are well worth a look if you want to know more.

    I also maintain a blog called “Will New Zealand Be Right”, where tomorrow I will be publishing an item noting Professor Brady’s work on China and this article.


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