Phillipa Yalden15:57, Jul 23 2020
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Two Chinese men killed in a crash on a highway near Tokoroa were travelling to Wellington to petition the Government over concerns about the Chinese Communist Party, according to a close friend.
A prominent figure in the New Zealand Chinese community who was travelling with them survived the crash but is in a critical condition at Waikato Hospital.
A mother and daughter from another vehicle involved are also in Waikato Hospital recovering in a ward, following the collision on SH1 about 1.05pm on Tuesday.
Canterbury University Professor Anne-Marie Brady said the crash had left two close friends, Yuezhong Wang, 47, and Weiguo Xi, 48, dead
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Another friend was in hospital, where he remained unconscious but expected to recover, she said.
Wang and Xi, who were both living in Auckland, were travelling to Parliament to petition the Government to address the issue of Chinese Communist Party political interference in New Zealand, she said.
“These men are hugely important to our New Zealand Chinese community and democracy, and are so brave,” she told Stuffon Thursday morning.
“People in the Chinese community don’t feel safe, they’re being intimidated by Chinese government officials..”
Wang was a member of the Independent Chinese Pen writers’ association and Xi was the chairman of the New Zealand branch of the Federation for Democratic China.
“These people are so important and so brave – they speak for the silent majority and the Chinese community in New Zealand.
“They feel very unsafe and have this fear it could be more than just an accident. I have asked the police to look into whether there could have been sabotage.”
On Thursday the justice select committee was sitting at Parliament to discuss the possibility of Chinese political interference in New Zealand. 1 News reported that 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 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?” Curran asked.
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 Brady.
Police are investigating the crash, but Brady says it must consider all possibilities. “If they didn’t know to look for sabotage, perhaps they wouldn’t look for this,” she said.
Security expert Paul Buchanan said he doubted sabotage was the cause of the crash, but members of the Chinese dissident community had reason to feel threatened.
“There is a history of acts of intimidation and threats made by pro-Communist Party Chinese people in New Zealand against independent Chinese people here.
“There’s been everything from tearing down of posters, to verbal arguments, to online threats, all of this is the backdrop to this tragic event.”
Brady’s home and office was broken into, her laptops and mobiles stolen, and her car tampered with after she published about Chinese political interference, Buchanan said.
“It behooves the police to give us some short and simple answers as to why or why not they think it was nothing other than a tragic accident.”
Senior Sergeant Phil Edwards of Taupō police said the two men were travelling with another man in a southbound car heading to Wellington at the time of the crash.
The trio were travelling with others in another vehicle, who did not witness the crash, he said.
An initial assessment of the scene indicated a northbound vehicle crossed the centre line, glanced a southbound vehicle in the process and collided head-on with a third vehicle, police said a statement to Stuff.
Edwards said police were still establishing the full circumstances of the crash, including speaking to occupants and witnesses. A full inspection of the vehicles involved would take place in Taupō on Thursday.
He said the crash happened prior to the heavy downpours which hit the region on Tuesday afternoon and conditions were overcast at the time.
The two occupants of the northbound vehicle – a mother and daughter – were both taken to Waikato Hospital with serious injuries.
Xi lived in Half Moon Bay, with his wife and 19-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. He worked as an Uber driver after moving to New Zealand in 2016 and was previously a member of the Chinese Marines.
Wang lived in Auckland, where he worked as a carpenter for the last four years. He had family, including a wife and children, in China.
David Ding, the secretary general of the New Zealand branch of the Federation for Democratic China, said the men left Auckland at 9.30am and stopped in Huntly at 11am. At about 1pm the crash happened. He had visited the Tokoroa police station on Wednesday and been taken to the crash site.
“Friends and family are discussing the next steps. It’s very hard for them – the body is still in Rotorua Hospital too. Mr Xi is a parent, and the relatives are all in China.
“It is very, very sad for them, the other party is very lucky.”
Anyone with information on the crash can contact police on 105.