Jacinda Ardern, Judith Collins tight-lipped on alleged security concerns over Chinese ex-MPs Jian Yang, Raymond Huo

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins will neither confirm nor deny if two former Chinese MPs retired over security concerns. 

Former National MP Jian Yang and ex-Labour MP Raymond Huo retired in July last year within 11 days of each other, and according to news site POLITIK it came after security concerns over their ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Their retirement announcements were reportedly orchestrated by the offices of Ardern and former National leader Todd Muller following intelligence briefings, official and political sources purportedly told POLITIK. 

"We do not confirm or deny any security briefings that we do or don't receive. We just don't comment on them at all," Ardern told reporters, when asked to confirm if the two Chinese MPs retired over security concerns.

"I would just refer back to Raymond Huo's own reasons that he provided at the time that he resigned. When it comes to any other Member of Parliament, it's not for me to give their explanation for why they chose to leave."

Collins' office wouldn't confirm the allegations. 

"We don't comment on the contents of security and intelligence briefings."

Huo was Labour's first Chinese-born MP, and was elected to Parliament in 2008. In a statement in July, he said he had already submitted his nomination form for re-election, but lockdown gave him time to consider his political career. 

"For too long my family has been secondary and the recent lockdown provided an opportunity for me to reflect on my future," Huo said at the time. 

Former Labour MP Raymond Huo.
Former Labour MP Raymond Huo. Photo credit: Parliament TV

Huo's statement followed an announcement 11 days prior from Dr Yang, who said after "careful consideration" and talking to his wife and children, he came to the decision not to stand at the election as a list MP.  

Muller, at the time, had defended Dr Yang after he was criticised for refusing an interview with a Q&A journalist for more than two years.   

Both Huo and Dr Yang have been linked to the People's Republic of China (PRC), which is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Canterbury University Professor Anne-Marie Brady, an expert on Chinese politics, named Huo in her research as someone who "works closely with PRC representatives in New Zealand".

Dr Yang's affiliations appeared to run deeper. 

Former National MP Jian Yang.
Former National MP Jian Yang. Photo credit: Parliament TV

He made headlines across the globe after admitting in 2017 to training Chinese spies so they could monitor other countries' communications. But he denied ever being a spy and denied ever having intelligence training.  

Dr Yang 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 Chinese intelligence. 

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

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

Former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters "welcomed" news of Dr Yang's departure from Parliament, describing his tenure as "shameful".  

"It is breath-taking, given New Zealand's long democratic tradition, that National has tolerated the intolerable by protecting Mr Yang from being held to account by our media," Peters said at the time

"He has never satisfactorily explained his past links with the CCP and their military intelligence-linked language schools, nor has he or the National Party ever apologised for his misleading statements when he applied for citizenship."