What is the SIS up to now? orJian Yang, the New Zealand Dreyfus
The short answer to the question above, "What is the SIS up to now?" is that the SIS in collaboration with the GCSB has attempted to:
* Unseat an elected Member of Parliament
* Incite anti-Chinese sentiment, and public suspicion towards the New Zealand Chinese community
* Dictate the foreign policy of the Labour-led government.
You don't have to be a constitutional lawyer to appreciate the implications of this sort of political interference by a secret department of state. In constitutional theory, the people elect Members of Parliament, Parliament elects a government, and the government determines state policy and directs the security services. Over the past six months the SIS has attempted to turn that model on its head. The service believes that it can dictate policy to the new Labour-led government, unseat National list Member of Parliament Jian Yang, engage in a political campaign against the Peoples Republic of China, and incite public suspicion of the New Zealand Chinese community.
We start, out of chronological order, with the Financial Timesrevelations of 11 December 2017 as reported by Jamie Smyth in Sydney
New Zealand security chiefs warn of China threat
Agencies call for robust response from new government to Beijing's drive for influence
New Zealand's security chiefs have called for a more vocal government response to national security threats after a spate of spying incidents highlighted Beijing's attempts to influence the country's growing Chinese community.
Briefings prepared for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little, the minister in charge of security agencies, mark the latest official expression of concern over Beijing's political influence in New Zealand and Australia as they experience a surge in political activity from people with alleged ties to China's Communist party as their Chinese-born populations surge.
One briefing cites "activities in New Zealand over the past year [that] have included attempts to access sensitive government and private sector information, and attempts to unduly influence expatriate communities".
While the identity of the foreign governments spying in New Zealand are redacted, security experts say Beijing is stepping up a campaign to influence China's growing diaspora in the Pacific nation and a host of other western countries.
About 4 per cent of New Zealand's population, or 171,411 people, identified themselves as ethnically Chinese in the 2013 census, with a further 19,000 Chinese citizens gaining residency over the past four years.
The briefings on New Zealand's security environment say that until recently it has been rare for the country's prime ministers or national security system to openly provide information on security matters. Unlike in Australia, where a public debate on Chinese influence has been raging for months and has led to a change in policy, New Zealand's politicians have been reluctant to discuss the matter openly.
"We think that a wider dialogue with the public, on a regular basis and covering a wide range of national security issues, will support a risk and resilience-based approach to national security by normalising issues that can often seem quite abstract or removed from most New Zealanders," another of the briefings says.
The language and the rationale is incoherent, but the intention is clear. Through its leaked briefing papers the SIS is inciting and encouraging anti-Chinese sentiment among the wider New Zealand public.
The SIS is advocating "a wider dialogue with the public, on a regular basis and covering a wide range of national security issues..". That is in itself extraordinary. The SIS is supposed to act at the behest of the government of the day, and it is for the government to form policy as it sees fit. That may or may not require a public debate and it should not matter to the SIS how a governing party chooses to develop policy. The role of the SIS is to implement the policy of the government. Not to formulate policy or to publicly promote a policy. The Financial Times notes that "in Australia ... a public debate on Chinese influence has been raging for months and has led to a change in policy". The suggestion is that something of the kind should happen in New Zealand. In other words the SIS is proposing a "public debate" in New Zealand leading to "a change of policy" without mentioning that the debate in Australia was powered by viciously "white Australia" anti-Chinese sentiment and that any debate in New Zealand would have to assume a similar tone if it was to achieve the "change in policy" desired by "New Zealand security chiefs".
The SIS also warns of "attempts to unduly influence expatriate communities". We might have some idea about what constitutes "improper influence" but what is "undue influence"? Is it "undue influence" when the governments of the United Kingdom or United States urge European New Zealanders to support the western alliance politically or militarily? Would it be undue influence if the government of China used New Zealanders of Chinese descent to encourage friendly relations between New Zealand and China? Is "undue" a codeword for "effective"?. The SIS is trying to create fear and suspicion of the Chinese community in New Zealand on the grounds that it has been "unduly influenced" by the government of the Peoples Republic of China. Yet we have no idea of how that undue influence is measured, or what the term actually means. The SIS is being at best irresponsible, at worst maliciously and dangerously seeking to incite conflict between ethnic groups.
To put this report in context we need to go back to another story in the Financial Times under the byline of Jamil Anderlini in Hong Kong on 13 September 2017, ten days before a general election, which reads:
China-born New Zealand MP probed by spy agency
Government politician Jian Yang spent decade at elite Chinese military academies
New Zealand's national intelligence agency has investigated a China-born sitting member of parliament in connection with the decade he spent at leading Chinese military colleges.
Jian Yang, an MP for New Zealand's ruling National party, spent more than 10 years training and teaching at elite facilities including China's top linguistics academy for military intelligence officers, the Financial Times has learnt.
The Financial Times article argues "an investigation by intelligence agencies into Mr Yang's background and current activities is aimed at protecting those members of the Chinese immigrant community who have chosen to leave authoritarian China and settle in a democracy" but fails to explain just how the SIS investigations into Mr Yang, and the leaking of the results of those investigations to foreign and New Zealand media in the context of an anti-Chinese campaign, can "protect the Chinese immigrant community" in New Zealand.
In fact, this lame and transparently duplicitous justification for the anti-Chinese campaign came not from the Jamil Anderlini or the Financial Times, but from the SIS itself.
This was the opening shot of the SIS campaign against Jian Yang, the National Party and the Chinese community which culminated in the Financial Times report of 12 December. More "revelations" were to follow in rapid succession. The offensive rapidly broadened to include local players including the Newsroom website, the New Zealand Herald and sundry bloggers mainly of a left-wing persuasion but the hands of the SIS and GCSB were evident throughout.
On September 20 New Zealand Herald journalists Matt Nippert and David Fisher ran a story Revealed: China's network of influence in New Zealand...A new research paper uncovers widespread Chinese links between former MPs, their families and political donations
A major research paper into China's soft-power campaign in New Zealand has detailed how dairy farms have been used for near-space balloon launches by a Chinese company developing "high-precision monitoring" of Earth from satellites.
The study also details extensive links between China and former New Zealand politicians and their families, and also highlights significant political donations.
University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady, the author of the research paper, said she was disturbed by her findings.
"This is about our democracy and about our sovereignty. Anybody who reads the report will find this troubling," she told the Herald.
On 14 November Professor Brady published a further paper in which she wrote "New Zealand--along with other nations--is being targeted by a concerted foreign interference campaign by the People's Republic of China (PRC). The campaign aims to gain support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government's political and economic agendas by co-opting political and economic elites. It also seeks to access strategic information and resources. China's efforts undermine the integrity of our political system, threaten our sovereignty, and directly affect the rights of Chinese New Zealanders to freedom of speech, association, and religion. The new Labour-New Zealand First-Greens government must develop an internally-focused resilience strategy that will protect the integrity of democratic processes and institutions, and should work with other like-minded democracies to address this challenge."
If the language and purpose of Brady's paper seems more polemic than academic, the explanation for that is that it was funded by NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance of western military powers.
At this point the SIS campaign is gathering pace, with the Labour government being overtly pressured to adopt an anti-China policy through Nippert and Fisher's articles in the Herald based on Brady's "research".
On 6 December RNZ ran another Anne-Marie Brady inspired story "Calls to combat foreign political influence" by Craig McCulloch which reported"Brady said the new Labour-led government needed to closely study what Australia was doing and take action.
"Australia has a really clear, resilient strategy now ... and it's an approach our government could really learn a lot from."
Prof Brady recently published a major research paper which documented extensive links between China and former NZ politicians.
"We're certainly not immune from the pressures that Australia's experiencing."
Then on 12 December, almost simultaneously with the Financial Times revelations of 11 December, RNZ Morning Report broadcast an interview with former Prime Minister Bill English in connection with which it was noted on the RNZ website that "Security chiefs have called for a wider conversation on the issue of foreign influence in New Zealand in the briefings to incoming ministers. They furthermore warned that Beijing had been showing activity in attempting to influence Chinese diaspora in New Zealand and other parts of the world."
It is most probable that RNZ has sighted the same briefing paper as the Financial Times, and, interestingly, makes the same somewhat unusual reference to "Security chiefs" while substituting "wider conversation" for "wider dialogue with the public".
The SIS quickly realised that with the release of the briefing paper it had gone a bridge too far, and ordered the item withdrawn from the RNZ website, but its writ does not extend to theFinancial Times, or Chinese and other foreign websites which had picked up on and linked to the Financial Times story. So the SIS is left in an awkward position. It can keep the story out of the New Zealand media and out of sight of the mass of the New Zealand public but is powerless to retract what has already made its way around the rest of the world.
That, however, did not signal the end of the campaign. On 20 December Matt Nippert ran a further story in the New Zealand Herald based on another tip-off from the SIS. Nippert wrote of how:
MP Yang lobbied ministers to overturn Security Intelligence Service block
Embattled MP Jian Yang lobbied ministers in a bid to overturn a national security block on a China-born job applicant taking up a sensitive position in the defence force.
Months after first taking a seat in Parliament following the 2011 election, Yang took up the case of an aggrieved applicant for a New Zealand Defence Force job who had failed background checks conducted by the Security Intelligence Service.
Yang told the Herald he was merely acting on behalf of a constituent and had done nothing wrong. "I had simply sought answers on the constituents behalf through the appropriate channels, as is the responsibility of every Member of Parliament," he said.
A February 2012 letter obtained under the Official Information Act written by then-Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman to the applicant, copied in Yang "who has approached my office on your behalf," and noted Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson had also been lobbied."
The SIS evidently believe that their decisions made in secret should be final with no right of appeal. Matt Nippert and Anne-Marie Brady may agree, but the public of New Zealand should not. The SIS acts as a law unto itself. Its agents have been guilty of illegally breaking into houses to steal documents and personal property from the occupants, it regularly breaks the law by gathering data by accessing private and confidential information without warrant, and now it seeks to determine government policy and the makeup of the New Zealand parliament, while inciting ethnic tensions. It has a history marked by prejudice, malice and vindictiveness. It is not an organisation which can be trusted to make fair and proper decisions about the trustworthiness of New Zealand citizens, or any other matter. The government of Chile when confronted by an out of control security-intelligence service chose to disestablish the organisation entirely. If Jacinda Ardern wants New Zealand democracy to survive into the next decade she should take the same decisive action.
We also need to take a hard look at the New Zealand media and academia, which colluded with the SIS to unseat the MP Jian Yang, force the National government to give up its policy of friendship with China, and foster public suspicion of Chinese New Zealanders. While people from London to Shanghai are able to read the text of the SIS briefing paper to the Labour government, New Zealanders themselves have been kept in ignorance by a media blackout. The reasons for that, and the explanation of the New Zealand Herald's about-face on the Chinese issue, should be fully explored. In earlier years the Herald, faced with falling circulation, had hoped to pick up a significant Chinese readership, and employed at least one ethnic Chinese journalist in an attempt to broaden its appeal to the Chinese community. That effort, well intentioned as it may have been, has not borne fruit, and one of the charges that the SIS now brings against the Chinese community is that it receives all its news and opinion through a Chinese owned, largely Chinese language media which is either controlled or influenced by the Chinese government. The Herald may feel therefore that it has nothing to lose from joining the SIS in an anti-China campaign, and in strictly financial terms that may be right. However our nation as a whole will suffer grievously if it chooses to resurrect the anti-Chinese prejudice which prevailed through most of the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Jian Yang is the New Zealand Dreyfus. He has had the misfortune to be swept up in a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment let loose by Donald Trump's election to the presidency of the United States. The state which he has chosen to serve, the New Zealand state, has now turned on him with not so much charges as insinuations of disloyalty, and those insinuations carry some weight, because like Captain Dreyfus he had a previous life, associations and presumed loyalties which lay outside his final country of domicile. There is no disputing that Yang had past associations with the Chinese state, military and Communist Party. He now claims to be a loyal New Zealander and a supporter of capitalism, and it is not difficult to see why that might be the case. The Chinese Communist Party itself now fully endorses capitalism and the market economy, and so there is no reason to suppose that Yang should not. He previously lived under and supported the Chinese state, and he now lives under and supports the New Zealand state. Such a change of allegiance would only be inherently implausible if the Chinese state was a model of probity and good governance, and the New Zealand state a den of iniquity and corruption, but no one in the New Zealand political establishment appears to be arguing that case. Each year thousands of immigrants come to New Zealand from all parts of the world, from Europe, Africa, India, China and the Americas and a great proportion of them go on to take up citizenship and to pledge allegiance to New Zealand's head of state. Noone questions the sincerity of their change of allegiance and there is no good reason why anyone should challenge Jian Yang on the same count.
There is another, slightly different charge made against Yang, which is that because of his past associations with the intelligence services in China, he poses a particular danger to this country. That, however, is simply an expression of prejudice. The intelligence services of this country (the SIS and GCSB) cooperate fully and share information with the intelligence agencies of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. Of those countries two (Australia and the United Kingdom) despatched large military forces to invade and conquer Aotearoa in 1862. A third, the United States, made detailed military plans and preparations for an invasion in 1908. China has never planned, prepared, attempted or carried out an invasion of these islands. How can it be right for the SIS to collaborate and act on behalf of those states which have invaded our land, destroyed our villages and enslaved our people, and yet unforgivable for Jian Yang to have had a past association with the intelligence services of a nation which, for as long as our people have existed, has had a wholly benign attitude towards us?