News of Zealand

News of Zealand: National MP Taught Chinese Spies

Plus an investigation into unsafe working conditions at Savemart, and reports of 'modern-day slavery' for immigrants.
September 13, 2017, 10:42pm
Jian Yang and Bill English, image via Flickr.

Everything you need to know about the world this morning, curated by bFM and VICE NZ.


National MP Admits to Teaching Spies in China
A National Party MP has admitted to teaching spies in China, but firmly denies he is one himself. Before moving to New Zealand Dr Jian Yang was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and taught English at learning institutions run by the People's Liberation Army. Yang said he had been completely upfront with the National Party about his history, but that he did not include it in his bio on the party website as people may not understand the context. Prime Minister Bill English supports Yang and said his loyalties as an MP had never been questioned until these revelations became public.

WorkSafe Investigating Working Conditions at Savemart
Workers at an Auckland Savemart store have spoken out about poor working conditions, saying they were made to sort through clothing bins without gloves. Workers said the bins contained glass, nappies, and dead animals, and they were told they could be fired when they questioned the conditions. WorkSafe is investigating a New Lynn store, saying if the allegations are true, they clearly breach health and safety laws. Staff from several other stores have also come forward with concerns, complaining of poor heating and leaky buildings. Savemart owner Tom Doonan issued a statement, saying staff wore gloves at most branches.


Migrant Worker Likens Working Conditions to 'Modern-Day Slavery'
A migrant worker who came to New Zealand in 2016 says he was involved in a modern-day slavery situation, and is now whistleblowing to prevent similar situations, which he says are widespread. The worker, who RNZ only referred to as Danny, said he and his wife came to New Zealand with the hope of gaining a better life, but once here found a very different reality. He was introduced to an Auckland business owner who said Danny needed to pay $25,000 in cash to secure the job and residency. A few weeks later he was told he would not be paid, but that he had to lie to immigration to make them think he was. Danny was made to clean his employer's house, chauffeur his child, and work in the gardens. Currently, Danny is homeless, divorced, jobless, and does not have a valid visa. He said it was time to shine a light on the issue to make sure New Zealanders knew what was happening in their own backyard.

Protests Over Wellington Weapons Expo
Activists are threatening to disrupt a defence industry forum in Wellington. Activist group Peace Action Wellington is petitioning the owners of Wellington's Westpac Stadium, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, to shut down the October event. The organisers of the event said they were being unfairly targeted and that protests would be a hinderance to local companies who hoped to network at the event. Wellington Mayor Justin Lester was adamant that the Weapons Expo wouldn't be held in council venues, but that decision does not impact Westpac Stadium. Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin is the main sponsor of the event.


Todd Barclay Moving to London
National MP Todd Barclay is moving to London to find work, and will leave Parliament before the election. In June, Bill English's office said Barclay would remain an MP and would carry out his duties until September 23, but he is now set to leave the country on Tuesday. He will receive his $160,000 per year salary, as well as access to a subsidised car and travel, until the election. Three months ago Barclay announced he would not stand for the Clutha-Southland electorate after it was revealed he secretly recorded a staff member.

Māori Language Week Should Be 'Everyday'
A member of the activist group which delivered the Maori Language petition to Parliament in 1972 says the focus on te reo needs to extend well beyond Māori Language Week. The petition, presented by Ngā Tamatoa and Victoria University's Te Reo Māori Society was behind the creation of Maori Language Day, which is now Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. Ngā Tamatoa member Toro Waaka told RNZ things had improved slightly since the time of the petition, but there was still a lot of work to be done. He said te reo should be compulsory in schools and there should be more focus on teaching issues around the Treaty of Waitangi.


FEMA Assesses Damage from Irma
Hurricane Irma demolished roughly 25 percent of all homes in the Florida Keys and severely damaged another 65 percent, according to FEMA estimates. The storm killed at least 19 people in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; at least 37 people died in the Carribbean. As of Wednesday morning, 9.5 million Floridians remained without power.

White House Reportedly Wants to Slash Refugee Admissions
The Trump administration plans to dramatically reduce the number of refugees offered sanctuary in the US. Several sources told VICE News no more than 50,000 refugees would be admitted in the next full fiscal year, fewer than half as many as the Obama administration allowed last year.

Suu Kyi Ditches UN General Assembly Meeting
Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's ruling party, has decided not to appear at UN General Assembly sessions next week. Suu Kyi's office said she was "concentrating on establishing stability," as she continues to face criticism over Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya Muslims, around 400,000 of whom have sought safety in Bangladesh after widespread violence against them. The UN Security Council will discuss the situation today.

French Prime Minister Pledges to Change Labor Laws Amid Protests
Édouard Philippe has vowed to implement changes to the country's employment practices, despite union protests Tuesday. The proposed reform package includes a plan to give companies more flexibility in firing employees. That has prompted strikes from powerful truckers unions and demonstrations where hundreds of thousands took to the streets. But Philippe has refused to change course, saying voters who backed his party earlier this year were voting for these policies.

Israel Backs Kurdish Effort to Create Independent State
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country supports the creation of an independent Kurdish state as Iraqi Kurds prepare for a September 25 referendum on separating from Iraq. Netanyahu's office said Israel "supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own" but also condemned the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey as a terrorist group.

Reporting by India Essuah, Katie Doyle, and Leah Garcia-Purves.