WELLINGTON - A China-born New Zealand lawmaker has been investigated by New Zealand's national intelligence agency for his connection with leading Chinese military colleges, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday (Sept 13).
Dr Yang Jian, a Member of Parliament for New Zealand's ruling National party, had spent more than a decade training and teaching at institutions including China's top language academy for military intelligence officers.
Dr Yang, elected in 2011, has consistently pushed for closer ties between New Zealand and China as well as for international policies that echoed those of China's Communist Party, the Financial Times said.
"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," said former senior China analyst Christopher Johnson at the US Central Intelligence Agency now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, according to the Financial Times.
Dr Yang, 55, lived in China until he was 32. He served on New Zealand's parliamentary select committee for foreign affairs, defence and trade from October 2014 until he was replaced in March 2016, according to the Financial Times.
On Wednesday, Dr Yang slammed the allegations that question his loyalty to New Zealand, saying that they were a smear campaign, The New Zealand Herald reported.
Insisting that he is proud to call himself a New Zealander and contribute to the country, Dr Yang said he had been upfront and transparent about his education and employment, according to Associated Press.
Mr Bill English, the leader of the National party, said he had long been aware that Dr Yang was involved in military intelligence when he lived in China, The New Zealand Herald reported.
"I also understand it was quite well known in the Chinese community as well. My sense is he's never tried to hide that background," Mr English said, as quoted by The New Zealand Herald.
Dr Yang was an undergraduate majoring in English language at China's People's Liberation Army Air Force Engineering Academy in 1978, according to the Financial Times. He later taught at the academy.
Dr Yang then went on to the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute, an elite institution for China's military intelligence officers, the Financial Times reported.