New Zealand bans foreign political donations after warnings of overseas interference

New Zealand will ban foreign political donations as concerns over outside interference intensify in Wellington ahead of a 2020 election.

Legislation was introduced to New Zealand parliament on Tuesday and will be “passed under urgency”, according to Justice Minister Andrew Little.

“The risk of foreign interference in elections is a growing international phenomenon… New Zealand is not immune from this risk,” Mr Little said in a statement.

The law would ban donations over NZ$50 (£25) to political parties and candidates by foreigners, a steep drop from the current NZ$1,500 maximum.

Donations by foreigners were questioned in 2018 after a politician accused the leader of the opposition National Party of hiding a NZ$100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman to avoid declaring it.

The National Party leader rejected the charge.

"The risk of foreign interference in elections is a growing international phenomenon and can take many forms, including donations. New Zealand is not immune from this risk," Mr Little said in a statement.

The clampdown in New Zealand comes as an Australian MP faces calls to explain her apparent connections with a Chinese-Australian businessman who died in mysterious circumstances.

Gladys Liu claimed she never met Bo “Nick” Zhao, who was found dead weeks after telling Australia’s spy agency that a Chinese espionage ring asked him to run for parliament.

Photos emerged purporting to show Mr Zhao sitting next to Ms Liu at a meeting in her home in 2016.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday dismissed Australian fears of Beijing-backed meddling and spying. 

“For quite some time, certain Australian media and other agencies have been hyping up the so-called China espionage cases, China infiltration stories or China interference theory," said Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman. 

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“No matter how bizarre and outlandish, they are just one ridiculous farce or shoddy soap opera after another.”  Centre Alliance Senator for South Australia Rex Patrick told The Telegraph that Ms Liu “should make a comprehensive statement to the House of Representatives about her past (associations)”.

“Noting the seriousness of the allegations that have been made, I have called on the Prime Minister to have ASIO prepare a report on her,” he said.

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