Tokoroa car crash that killed two prominent Chinese dissidents could be 'sabotage' - academic

Source: 1News

A car accident in Tokoroa that killed two prominent Chinese dissidents and seriously injured another could be "sabotage", a leading China academic told MPs today.

On Tuesday, Weiguo Xi and Lecheng Wang were killed and Freeman Yu was seriously injured in a crash on State Highway 1 near Tokoroa.

Mr Xi was the chairman of the New Zealand branch of the Federation for a Democratic China, Mr Wang belonged to the Independent Chinese PEN Centre and Mr Yu is Secretary-General of New Zealand Value Alliance.

They were heading to Wellington for a planned protest at Parliament the following day and to present politicians with a petition urging them to take Chinese political interference seriously.

The crash involved three cars and happened just after 1pm near Galaxy Road. Two others were injured.

Police say an initial assessment shows a north-bound vehicle crossed the centreline, glancing a south-bound vehicle before colliding head on with a third vehicle.

Today the justice select committee was sitting at Parliament to discuss the possibility of Chinese political interference in New Zealand. Canterbury University academic Anne Marie Brady, who specialises in Chinese politics, opened her submission with news of Tuesday's tragic crash, saying it had “bearing” on the issues being discussed today.

She said the men's petition detailed how unsafe they felt in New Zealand.

"They feel the full infiltration of the Communist Party in New Zealand and they are experiencing pain and fear because of this," Dr Brady told the committee.

The first question to Dr Brady came from Labour MP Clare Curran.

"I don't know what sort of question this is, but do you have any concerns about the accident itself?" Ms Curran asked.

Dr Brady told the MPs "there's a lot of debate in our Chinese community, [which is] very, very worried that there could have been sabotage involved in the accident". She said she has expressed her fears to police and explained why there might be concerns.

"Whether there is [sabotage] or not, the fact that that was an instant response of the people in that community shows how vulnerable they feel, how unsafe they feel," said Dr Brady.

Police are investigating the crash but Dr Brady says it must consider all possibilities. “If they didn’t know to look for sabotage, perhaps they wouldn’t look for this,” said Dr Brady.

National MP Nick Smith asked if there was justification for a high level inquiry, beyond a normal police inquiry to establish whether there was interference to cause the crash. "I do think the SIS should look into it as well," Dr Brady responded.

She said the request for an SIS investigation has come from the New Zealand Chinese community.

In a statement to 1 NEWS today, an SIS spokesperson had little to say on the matter. 

“The investigation of vehicle crashes, including the cause of crashes, is a matter for New Zealand Police," the spokesperson said. "We would also add that in general the NZSIS has a long standing practice of not commenting on what may or may not be specific areas of operational focus.”

1 NEWS has contacted the Chinese Embassy, but it declined to comment.