Another Liu citizenship issue

The Herald reports:

A wealthy Auckland businessman was given New Zealand citizenship against official advice after a Government minister lobbied the colleague who made the decision.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) recommended that the citizenship application of Donghua Liu be declined on the grounds that he did not spend enough time in New Zealand or meet English language criteria.

However, one of Mr Liu’s business partners approached Mr Williamson and John Banks — the Mayor of Auckland at the time — and they wrote to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Nathan Guy, asking him to grant citizenship against the official advice.

“Invested in NZ and a lot of support”, was a file note for the case released under the Official Information Act.

Mr Guy, who is no longer the Minister of Internal Affairs, told the Herald that he made the final decision on more than 800 citizenship cases and regularly received correspondence from family and supporters of applicants.

He considered all of the evidence and said of Mr Liu’s application: “I considered at the time that, on balance, the potential benefits to New Zealand warranted the granting of citizenship.”

The official recommendation of whether citizenship should be granted was ignored in 61 of the 1011 cases between 2009 and 2011.

That’s useful to know, so around 6% go against advice.

But the 2010 case was one of several that caused concerns among DIA staff, who raised the possibility of favouritism with the Office of the Auditor-General during an inquiry into a citizenship decision made by Labour MP Shane Jones.

Mr Jones was criticised in the report last year but cleared of any corruption over his decision to grant citizenship to a wealthy businessman who had strong links to Labour. …

Electoral donation records show that Roncon Pacific Hotel Management Holdings Ltd — of which Mr Liu and Mr Goodwin are directors — made a $22,000 donation to the National Party in 2012.

Personally I don’t like a donation occurring from someone who got a favourable Government decision.  The donation was two years after the decision, and I’m not suggesting they were linked. But personally I’d discourage such a donation. However it is quite possible that until this story, National HQ were unaware that the company had a director who had received a favourable Ministerial decision on citizenship.

Mr Mottram confirmed he approached Mr Williamson and Mr Banks to support Mr Liu’s citizenship bid as he was making a very significant contribution as a businessman in Auckland, particularly in the construction industry.

“John’s support was just a matter of course because the activity was in Auckland City, he was the mayor and he was supportive of things that were good for Auckland,” said Mr Mottram.

“Obviously, if you’re the Minister of Building and Construction, you would want to promote building and construction, which we have been involved with for a long time.”

Mr Mottram said the requirements for New Zealand citizenship, which include the amount of time spent in the country and language requirements, were out of date.

“A lot of active, global businessmen are never in one place for any length of time … People who have global businesses are global citizens.”

The decision for citizenship seems justified. Unlike the other Liu case, this one is not wanted by Interpol, wanted in Australia and China, and using fake names. He seems to be entirely reputable. However a donation two years later from him isn’t a great look. However let’s look at what is and is not the same between this and the other Liu case.

The same

  • A Chinese national called Liu
  • A citizenship decision that was granted by the Minister against the Department’s recommendation
  • Lobbying by other MPs in favour
  • A donation to the party in Government

Not the same

  • This Liu was not a wanted alleged criminal, who had broken the law in China and Australia and had been a permanent resident since 2005
  • This Liu did not have multiple identities
  • The MPs advocating on his behalf appear to have done so purely on the basis of his business contributions, not through any personal relationships or friendships such as Samuels had with the other Liu
  • The Minister making the decision wasn’t lobbied time and time again by an MP – the only interventions it seems, were letters in support (which are common)
  • Departmental staffers are not contradicting what the Minister said
  • The donation was two years later, not before the decision was made
  • This Liu was not granted his citizenship in a special ceremony in the Labour Party caucus room!

So as a certain Minister says the optics are not good, and I’m personally uncomfortable with donations being made by entities or people who have had a favourable Government decision, but this is not the Bill Liu case.

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