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NZ MP Jian Yang worked in Australian Parliament

A New Zealand MP embroiled in a controversy over his past links to Chinese military intelligence worked as an intern with the Australian Senate’s committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade in the 1990s.

Documents released to The New Zealand Herald under freedom of information of laws show that Jian Yang, who has found himself at the centre of a controversy over Chinese influence abroad, worked at the powerful committee for two months after leaving China, where he was a lecturer at an intelligence-linked academy, the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute.

Nationals MP Jian Yang at Chinese and Korean New Year festivities in the Auckland suburb of Northcote. Photo: Denise Piper

In his application for New Zealand residency in 1998, Mr Yang did not detail the sensitive nature of the institution he worked at, disclosing only employment with “Luoyang University”.

Before moving to New Zealand, Mr Yang spent time in Australia and attained master’s degree at the Australian National University in 1994. While undertaking a subsequent PhD, he was head of the university’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association, an organisation linked to the Chinese embassy.

“During September and November 1994, I worked as an intern in Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, the Australian Parliament,” he wrote in his residency application.

“I was asked to write a report on the extension of social and cultural ties between Australia and [the People’s Republic of] China.”

The revelations emerged as his National Party narrowly missed out on being returned to government, with NZ First striking a coalition agreement with Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party.

Mr Yang was a lecturer in political science at Auckland University before becoming a National Party MP in 2014.

The controversy was triggered by a joint investigation from the Financial Times and local outlet Newsroom, published in September, which reported that New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service had launched an investigation into his background.

Friday’s New Zealand revelations came the same week Canberra’s top intelligence agency ASIO warned of the “unprecedented” level of “harmful espionage and foreign interference” operations being carried out in Australia, which have sought to steal sensitive information and covertly influence debate.

Mr Yang acknowledged he had been involved in teaching English to Chinese spies, but has defended the level of detail he disclosed to the New Zealand government, saying the National Party was “fully aware” of his background before his nomination.

“Luoyang University was the partnership university of the Foreign Languages Institute,” Mr Yang told The New Zealand Herald on Thursday.

Releasing the information, Immigration New Zealand said: “We note that Mr 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.”

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