Expert calls for inquiry into Chinese ‘threat’
A leading academic has called for New Zealand to follow Australia and take the threat of China’s growing influence in its affairs seriously.
Professor Anne-Marie Brady from the University of Canterbury says Australia is planning to introduce a law against foreign interference activities at the end of the year and may ban all foreign political donations. She says New Zealand should do the same.
Brady, acknowledged internationally as an expert on Chinese affairs, has just presented a paper to a conference in the United States entitled Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping.
She said that after watching China’s growing influence for several years, it was time for a special commission to investigate its impact on New Zealand’s democracy.
Brady said recent revelations that National Party MP Dr Jian Yang did not declare his background in military intelligence when applying for citizenship are extremely concerning.
Yesterday Yang sent Newsroom a statement, saying the statements made on his citizenship application from 2004 were “correct and truthful”.
“I did not include my full educational resume as it is extensive and I felt all of it was not relevant to proving my ability to speak English and integrate into New Zealand,” said Yang.
Last week, Yang told the media he had put “partner universities” on his application instead of the military institutions he attended because that is what the system had told him to do.
At the same media conference, he conceded he had taught English skills to Chinese spies.
“After his hidden history became publicly known, Dr Yang admitted to journalists that he was a CCP member - though insisted he had not been active member since he left China in 1994. However once someone is accepted into the CCP - which involves an extremely rigorous process - regardless of how the individual may feel, they are always regarded as a member, unless they are officially expelled from the party, and this is happens very rarely - one would have to be a traitor for it to occur.” said Brady.
Yang went to Australia in 1994 to study at ANU before moving to New Zealand and taking up a job at the University of Auckland.
“Under normal circumstances, the PLA would not have allowed anyone with Yang Jian’s military intelligence background to go overseas to study — unless they had official permission.”
When Pansy Wong was forced to leave Parliament late 2010, Yang was “shoulder tapped” by National and became a list MP in 2011. Between 2014 and 2016 he served on the select committee for foreign affairs, defence and trade.
Sources have told Newsroom that during this period the SIS took an interest in Yang, but according to the Prime Minister he was taken off the committee so another MP, Todd Muller, could be placed on it.
"The New Zealand government is responsible for the defence and foreign affairs of three other territories in the South Pacific - which potentially means four votes for China at international organisations."
Brady said that since 2014, Yang has played a key role in shaping the Government’s China strategy.
“Yang accompanied New Zealand PM John Key and his successor Bill English on trips to China and in meetings with senior Chinese leaders. This role would have given him privileged access to New Zealand’s China policy briefing notes and positions. “
According to Brady, New Zealand underestimates its importance to China, mistakenly thinking it’s just a small player at the bottom of the world.
“First, the New Zealand government is responsible for the defence and foreign affairs of three other territories in the South Pacific: Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau — which potentially means four votes for China at international organisations. New Zealand is a claimant state in Antarctica and one of the closest access points there; China has a long-term strategic agenda in Antarctica that will require the cooperation of established Antarctic states such as New Zealand. New Zealand has cheap arable land and a sparse population and China is seeking to access foreign arable land to improve its food safety. New Zealand now supplies 24 percent of China's foreign milk, and China is the biggest foreign investor in New Zealand’s dairy sector”.
Brady said there was deep concern among her international colleagues at the conference that China is meddling in the affairs of their respective countries, Australia, the US, UK, Canada, EU states and Japan.
She said China was using the same tactics in most of those countries, including New Zealand. They included:
- Gaining influence over Chinese migrants living in other countries (10 million Chinese live outside China).
- Taking over or integrating the local ethnic Chinese media with the Chinese media controlled by the Communist Party.
- Encouraging local Chinese who are acceptable to the Chinese government to enter politics in their host countries and if elected getting them to promote China’s interests.
- Appoint former local MPs with access to political power to high profile roles in Chinese companies or Chinese-funded entities in the host country.
In New Zealand, Brady said the current level of supervision over the ethnic Chinese community in New Zealand “is a remarkable achievement.”
“The organisation most closely connected with the PRC authorities in New Zealand is the Peaceful Reunification of China Association of New Zealand (PRCANZ), founded in 2000.”
Brady said PRCANZ engages in a range of activities that support China’s foreign policy goals including block-voting and giving money to local Chinese political candidates who support its agenda.
She claimed it also organised counter protest groups to shout down pro-Falun Gong (a spiritual movement persecuted in China), pro-Tibet, or any other group critical of China who come to protest when China’s senior leaders visit New Zealand.
“The current head of PRCANZ is Steven Wai Cheung Wong, also known as Huang Weizha, Mr Wong has senior leadership roles in many other United Front organisations in New Zealand, as well as in China.”
The “United Front” is a name given to the Chinese body that represents all political parties in China but is effectively controlled by the CCP and works on managing relationships with individuals or groups with influence, inside and outside of China.
Brady said Wong is “head of the United Chinese Association, head of the New Zealand Chinese History and Culture Association, Vice President of the China Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand, member of the Guangdong Provincial Association of Overseas Exchanges, Shandong Province Association overseas honorary president, member of the China Peaceful Reunification Council, and an adviser to the Beijing Overseas Chinese Affairs Council.”
Steven Wong moved to New Zealand in 1972. He is general manager of New Zealand Fresh Food Co. Ltd and made his money as a manufacturer of potato chips.
Wong is what China watchers call a “Red Capitalist” – patriotic wealthy ex-pat Chinese who provide further funding for United Front work.
Brady has put together a list of individuals and companies that have been major donors to New Zealand’s political parties. They include Zhao Wu Shen and his wife Susan Chou.
In 2007 Chou donated $41,000 to Labour. Then in 2010, she donated $200,000 to National, in 2011 she donated a further $100,000, and in 2014, her family company Contue Jinwan Enterprise Limited donated $200,212.36. The couple joined in the exclusive fund-raising charity dinner for Chinese rich-listers hosted by National MP Yang Jian and attended by John Key in 2014; which raised $200,000 for National's election campaign.
Shen had once been the biggest shareholder in the secure online file storage site, Mega.
Gao Wei has been a major donor to the National Party in recent years via his company Alpha laboratories (NZ) Limited. He donated $112,000 to National in 2017; and $50,000 in 2014. Gao has very close links with senior New Zealand and senior Chinese political figures.
In 2011 Shi Deyi (also known as Stone Shi) donated $56,500 (via Oravida NZ) to National and secured a game of golf with John Key in return. The photo of the match is still used in Oravida publicity. Shi donated a further $30,000 via Oravida in 2013,in 2016 he gave $50,000, and then a further $50,000 in 2017.
Stone Shi is now a rotating chair of a Red Capitalists organisation, the Shanghai Entrepreneurs Association This is a grouping of 2,000 of the most powerful companies in China, and is under the supervision of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce as well as the United Front Work Department.
In 2013 Ms Fan Xiaomiao donated $62,132.18 to the National Party and in 2011 she and her husband Zhang Yaxun donated $43,526.41. Zhang and his wife own Henan Province Zhou Fan Investment Company and have seven companies in New Zealand, mostly involved in agriculture.
GMP Dairy Ltd, run by Karl Ye, donated NZ$25,338 to the New Zealand National Party in 2015 GMP paid for two National MPs, Jamie-Lee Ross and Stuart Smith to visit China in 2016.
In 2017 Lang Lin, owner of Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Ltd donated $150,000 to National. Lang’s company is backed by the Chinese government investment firm CITIC (China International Trust and Investment Company) who are sponsoring his bid to expand China’s racing industry through importing New Zealand race horses. CITIC was set up under United Front Work Department auspices.
Brady has also carried out extensive research into the New Zealand’s ethnic Chinese media which she says is now essentially controlled by Beijing.
“New Zealand’s local Chinese language media platforms (with the exception of the pro-Falun Gong paper, The Epoch Times) now have content cooperation agreements with Xinhua News Service, get their China-related news from Xinhua (Chinese government-run), and participate in annual media training conferences in China. Some media outlets have also employed senior staff members who are closely connected to the CCP.”
“The leading Auckland Chinese language paper, the Chinese Herald, has close links to the PRC consulate and works with the All-China Federation of Overseas Chinese. The paper was originally totally independent, but like many other papers, it has been steadily 'harmonised' with Chinese media control agencies.”
Other media outlets to fall under CCP influence, according to Brady, include the leading local Chinese website Sky Kiwi and broadcaster World TV.
“In 2015, World TV, an Auckland-based Chinese language television network with seven channels and two radio stations that was founded by Hong Kong and Taiwanese New Zealanders in 1998, made a controversial decision to take its Taiwan programming off air. World TV has been in partnership with China Radio International since 2010. In 2016, China Xinhua News Network TV launched its own television station in New Zealand, TV33. In 2017, two young Chinese entrepreneurs founded the television channel NCTV, which also relays news from Xinhua and shows from Chinese state broadcasting, and aims to make programmes that will be able to be shown in China.”
When questioned by Newsroom if the release of her research paper was timed to have a political impact, Brady said she had been invited to present at the conference and it was co-incidental that the election was less than a week away. Further, she believed both National and Labour were being similarly influenced by the Chinese.
She said Labour MP Raymond Huo had United Front connections and so did the party’s other ethnic Chinese candidate Ms Chen Naisi, a law student at the University of Auckland.
“Chen is President of the New Zealand Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and co-president of the Auckland branch of this organisation. Chen said in an interview on New Zealand Chinese television that she is “not in the least bit interested in politics” but that the job as an MP will give her the platform to promote the interests of the student association she currently represents.
So, if Chen, Huo, and Yang are elected, which is quite likely given their high placing on party lists, there will be a leader of a United Front-related organisation for managing the overseas Chinese students and scholars, someone who has worked in Chinese military intelligence for 15 years, and someone who is an extremely active participant in China’s United Front activities sitting in the New Zealand Parliament after the 2017 election.