Week in Review

Labour distances itself from pro-China candidate

The Labour Party is distancing itself from one of its members who is strongly pro-Beijing and has caused controversy in the Chinese community by standing for local office in Auckland.

It has declined to select him for two of its own tickets for the local elections in October and one key party figure described his views on China's critics as "extreme, and frankly a bit nutty."

Morgan Xiao is the author of an article published by NZ Chinese media late last year calling academic Professor Anne-Marie Brady and other critics of Chinese Communist Party influence here "sons of bitches" and "anti China forces".  He has written elsewhere that the Tiananmen Square protesters from 1989 ought to have been strung up, and defended Chinese business people's use of donations in New Zealand politics.

Xiao is a Labour Party member - and his Facebook page claimed he is 'Chair, Chinese Branch, at NZ Labour Party - August 2018 to present'. But Labour sources said yesterday no such position existed and he did not lead its Chinese or ethnic groupings. Late yesterday the reference had been removed from Xiao's page.

Xiao is standing for a group called East Vision for the Howick Local Board, a group he says is made up of Labour members but does not represent the party. Critics of Beijing's attempts to achieve political influence in this country say his "extreme pro-Beijing" views online here and in China show he is influenced by the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to push its propaganda abroad.

Online, Xiao, 34, features his connections to the Labour Party. His photos include a parade of shots with Labour luminaries - at an event beside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood, list MPs Raymond Huo and Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Eden-Epsom local board chair Peter Haynes and former minister and whip Chris Carter.

Xiao with Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood, coordinator of Labour's local election efforts, in November last year. 

Yesterday it emerged Xiao had tried and failed to win selection to stand for Labour in the Botany area for the Howick Local Board and in the Maungawhau part of the Albert-Eden Local Board. It is understood his fiery views on critics of China was behind Labour's reticence to put him forward.

Xiao told Newsroom he couldn't comment about his bids to stand for Labour. "I have to tell you sorry, I really can't say, because it would influence other people's elections, I don't want to do that (I'm not like some people on Reddit). But I'm a writer, I'm planning to write about this long story in the future in my novel with no real names."

[Update: After this story was published, Xiao emailed to say: "I don't know other parties, but as an observer, I feel Labour Party people respect freedom of speech and diversity, people clearly knew my opinions and never witch-hunted me, they invited me to do many important things to contribute to the  party and NZ, and I trusted them back with all my heart. Anyone would feel like home in this kind of family.

"The only fear is from outside. There are too many people out there [who] fear things they don't know. The people who attack me because I'm against their interest, they used these fears to move votes and try to move the Labour people who trusted me. This was the main reason Botany and Albert Eden didn't select me.

"I hope these people could give Chinese politicians more love rather than witchhunt. I joined the politics only because I heard NZ politics were welcoming more Chinese and respect freedom of speech and diversity."]

He said the Facebook reference to being the Chair of the Chinese Branch of NZ Labour arose from his efforts to establish such a body for the party this year and friends had suggested he include the branch on his page for "advertising purposes". He said he was helping Indian members of the party organise events and they were helping prepare him for leadership of Chinese members.

"That's why I put it on my Facebook for advertising the Chinese branch. After this saga, I thought I deleted it, but sorry to make you confused."

Xiao said Labour should have a Chinese branch. "Labour's Indian branch and even Filipino branch were all established, Chinese branch is still missing, I felt it is not right. Lots of Labour people knew my views on China long time ago, but they also knew I have a strong will to serve all Chinese including those who have different views on China topics, so they trusted me and gave this responsibility to me to organise branch, so I took this job and almost finished it in a short time.

"In a letter, I also emphasised to the Labour Party, this branch is for serving Chinese in New Zealand, has nothing to do with China-NZ relationship or diplomacy."

Xiao, right, with Labour MP Raymond Huo.

Xiao's candidacy for what is an entry-level position in local politics was the subject of strong criticism this week among some Chinese New Zealanders on social media. 

One post on the local SkyKiwi Chinese community site on Wednesday says Xiao's backers have strong ties to the Communist Party. "Yep, you heard it right, someone that is outright against democracy and the Western Society is participating in a democratic election and is participating as a Labour member."

The post, by someone under the pseudonym of u/TrashFromSkykiwi, said Xiao's "sons of bitches" article was clearly CCP inspired as it called on Chinese critics here to leave this country.

One local Chinese resident from the Howick area where Xiao is standing told Newsroom "When we are now raising our concerns and worries about China interference in NZ, an extreme pro-Beijing individual with some official background comes up and nominated as a candidate under the Labour Party."

But Xiao said of the "extreme pro-Beijing" label: "If you compare it with the environment in New Zealand, then yes, I am but in China I am kind-of in the middle of the road."

He explained his article that had caused the controversy was intended to question an assumption made by some that any Chinese person in New Zealand speaking in favour of China and its policies could be regarded as a member of the Communist Party or spy.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined a photo with Morgan Xiao and family at a rally for Labour's Northcote byelection candidate Shanan Halbert, right, last year. 

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