The National MP under scrutiny for his ties to Chinese intelligence did not make it clear that he attended a foreign language school that trained spies when applying to stay in New Zealand.
Documents released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act have shed some light on the information Dr Jian Yang provided to authorities when applying for residency in 1997.
A “qualifications assessment” from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority shows Yang did not disclose his time at either the Peoples’ Liberation Army run Foreign Languages Institute or the PLA Air Force Engineering College.
Instead, he declared receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Luoyang University in 1982, and teaching there from 1982 to 1993.
Yang said he started attending Louyang University in 1978 but according to Wikipedia the school was not founded until 1980 with the help of World Bank education loans.
In September, Newsroom revealed Yang had attracted the interest of New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service due to his links to Chinese military intelligence.
At a subsequent media conference, Yang said he was not a spy but admitted he did teach spies at a Peoples’ Liberation Army-run languages school.
Yang said his job was to teach students to how to listen, read and write English.
“If you define those cadets or students as spies, yes, then I was teaching spies. If that is the case. I don’t think [they were spies]. I just think they are collecting information through communication in China.
Asked if New Zealand was one of the countries that information was collected on, Yang replied that he didn’t think so.
Yang said that instead of declaring that he had studied and then later taught at PLA institutions he had named “partner universities”.
He said that was what “the system” had told him to do because the way things operate in China was not well understood.
Yang denied making a false declaration and later told the NZ Herald:
“That’s my CV. It is not that I am deliberately trying to cover-up. It’s because the system asked me to use the partner university. That is the reason.”
He also confirmed that he had been a member of the Communist Party and a civilian officer in the PLA.
The documents released to Newsroom including a certificate from Luoyang University, provided in June 1997, said Yang was an assistant at the university’s Department of Foreign Languages between August 1982 and January 1990, and a lecturer from February 1990 to December 1993.
“Yang Jian taught the courses of English Grammar, English Reading, English Listening, American Studies and other courses. He was conscientious in his work and achieved a lot.”
A schooling notarial certificate said Yang studied at the “English Speciality of Foreign Language Department of Luoyang University” from October 1978 to July 1982.
In a statement of working experience, Yang told New Zealand officials he published “about twenty short translations in different magazines” while studying.
“One of the translations, ‘How to Measure the Earth’, was later included in a two-volume book entitled One Article A Day For Middle School Students.”
While working as a teaching assistant, he gave lectures to junior students and also taught English to some big companies, “such as China No. 1 Tractor Engineering Group and Luoyang Mining Machine Making Group”.
The statement also mentions his time at the John Hopkins University-Nanjing University Centre for Chinese and American Studies, where he was se setting up new courses in the foreign language department.
Yang said he spent nine months in the English-speaking environment, studying American history, political science, and other courses.
“I graduated with excellent results. In fact, I was regarded as one of the most promising students.”
In the statement, Yang said he received a scholarship to study in the US, but was unable to attend due to “the Tiananmen Square crackdown” and the subsequent change in the Chinese government’s policy for sending students overseas.
He then went back to Luoyang University and was promoted to lecturer, publishing a number of essays and translations and setting up new courses in American history and comparative politics – “both courses were well received”, he notes.
A letter from Immigration New Zealand accompanying the OIA release said Yang “met all the requirements under the relevant legislation at the time of his residence application, and no character concerns were identified at the time”.
The department has declined to release further information about Yang’s residency application, saying it is not in the public interest. In a statement to the NZ Herald Immigration New Zealand said. “No new information has come to light that would warrant an investigation.”
But that might not satisfy Winston Peters who is likely to be the new Deputy Prime Minister.
Speaking in Dunedin before the election, Peters, called for an urgent inquiry into Yang.
The Otago Daily Times reported Peters as saying New Zealand had been caught out and exposed to being a pawn of the communists in China.
“The influence of the Government of China is real within the New Zealand Government. This is not a spy thriller from the airport bookshelves,” he said to loud applause.
“New Zealand became vulnerable the moment National recruited Dr Yang,” Mr Peters said.
“His decade of work with Chinese military intelligence had only now been opened-up, but not yet laid bare.
“He sat on the influential Parliamentary Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee.
“That made his background working with China’s military intelligence for a decade seriously significant.”
This may turn out to be campaign rhetoric but Peters revealed during the build-up to the election that his own sources had given him information on Yang’s background prior to Newsroom’s story.
Yang, who is a major fundraiser for the National Party has accused his political opponents of a “smear campaign” and in an email to the NZ Herald yesterday, again denied he had made any false disclosures.
“Louyang University was the partnership university of the Foreign Languages Institute.” He said.