National MP Jian Yang who admitted to training Chinese spies to retire from politics

National MP Jian Yang (left) and National MP Simon Bridges.
National MP Jian Yang (left) and National MP Simon Bridges. Photo credit: Facebook

National MP Jian Yang, who once admitted to training Chinese spies, has announced that he will retire from politics at the 2020 election.

Dr Yang said in a statement on Friday that after "careful consideration" and talking to his wife and children, he came to the decision not to stand at the September election as a list MP.

"Accordingly, I have informed the party president that I should not be considered by the regional list ranking committee of the Northern Region in its meeting tomorrow, hence my announcement today," Dr Yang said. 

"I truly believe that New Zealand is a great country. I have been in New Zealand for 21 years, twelve years in academia and nine years in politics.

"Politics is demanding and I now look forward to spending more time with my wife and family. It has been a privilege to serve and after nine years it is also time for me to move on and encourage the younger generation to come forward."

Dr Yang made headlines across the globe after admitting in 2017 to training Chinese spies so they could monitor other countries' communications.

He once taught at the People's Liberation Army-Air Force Engineering College, and spent time at the Luoyang Language Institute, run by the Third Department, which carries out spying activities for China.

It was later revealed he did not disclose his links to the schools in his citizenship applications and instead described them as "partner" universities which had a relationship with military institutions.

Dr Yang denied ever being a spy and denied ever having intelligence training.

He said it has been an "honour" to represent the Chinese community as a National MP in Parliament and is proud to have helped the Chinese community better understand and participate in New Zealand politics.

"I will continue to support New Zealand's hard-working Chinese community outside of caucus."

Dr Yang said trips to China with former Prime Minister John Key, other ministers and colleagues have been the highlight of his career as an MP.

"I have witnessed the rapid growth of New Zealand's trade with China and I am pleased to have played a role in it," he said. "I am proud to be a New Zealander, and a member of the National Party whom I will continue to support into the future."

Todd Muller defends Jian Yang

Earlier this week National leader Todd Muller defended Dr Yang after he was criticised in a TVNZ report over refusing an interview with a Q&A journalist for more than two years.

Dr Yang had the support of Muller who bumped him up the National Party list from 33 to 27.

"He's done close to 10 in the last 18 months in his role as spokesperson for statistics across all the various media outlets," Muller told Magic Talk on Monday. "This view that he's somehow not fronting for media isn't correct."

Muller said Dr Yang has been transparent about his past.

"He's been very clear in the past in terms of his history and the length of time he's been in New Zealand. Obviously one of the key points is when he left the Communist Party, he left 26 years ago. These things tend to want to be trawled over again."

In October 2019 Dr Yang was one of 50 New Zealanders who were invited to attend the CCP's 70th anniversary celebrations in the Chinese capital. 

He also accompanied former National leader Simon Bridges on a trip to China where a meeting was set up with Guo Shengkun, described as head of China's 'secret police'.

Muller pushed back against criticism of Dr Yang's ties to the CCP.

"It's a massive country for us in terms of trade and relationships and my experience in the context of all the corporate export roles I've had is that as you build relationships with people in China, they are members of the Communist Party - that's sort of how it works, right?

"You end up having conversations and building deep relationships with people who have roles in the Communist Party and China because that's their system."