National Party President Peter Goodfellow says Chinese-born list MP Jian Yang told the party about his decade of training at two military intelligence institutions.

Goodfellow claims Yang’s involvement in Chinese spy schools is common knowledge – and he has “no idea about any investigation” by the Security Intelligence Service into the MP.

It was Goodfellow who recruited Yang to National and then Parliament in 2011 and he has travelled with him to China, where they were photographed together on multiple occasions. Yang has been a successful fundraiser for National in the Chinese community. He is ranked 33rd on National’s party list.

However, the party president’s claim today that Yang was vetted by public relations firm Saunders Unsworth has been challenged by one of the company principals Mark Unsworth. Asked by Newsroom if the firm had undertaken vetting on Yang, Unsworth said:

“No never – we don’t do work for political parties. We don’t vet politicians, I probably interviewed him for my book sometime after he entered Parliament. Did Peter Goodfellow say this? This is most strange. I will check with my colleagues but I feel sure we would not have done this. We just don’t do this sort of work.”

Goodfellow said he could not recall if the party knew Yang had spent a decade at the People’s Liberation Army-Air Force Engineering School and the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute but it did know about him studying there.

Told the two venues were commonly training grounds for Chinese intelligence officers, and the language institute was specialised in preparing spies linguistically, Goodfellow said “He is a very good linguist.”

After checking, Unsworth emailed back to confirm that “someone had their wires crossed”.

He said he interviewed all new MPs before and just after each election – something he’d been doing for more than 20 years. 

This included an interview with Yang in 2011, from which he wrote a profile. The profiles are not shared with other MPs or the media.

“We do not work for any political party nor do we carry out any vetting service for any political party,” Unsworth wrote in the email.

“No one at Saunders Unsworth has ever done any other work on or for Dr Yang but would see him around Parliament from time to time.”

Yang told Newsroom today he had nothing to hide but would not comment further, other than to say, repeatedly: “Talk to my boss.”

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