The Donghua Liu Affair: The Background

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The Donghua Liu Affair hit  the headlines on 18 June, with allegations that David Cunliffe wrote a letter in 2003,  advocating on  behalf of  business-migrant, Donghua Liu.

Four days later, on Sunday 22 June, the Herald ran stories alleging  massive donations to the Labour Party by Liu. Tabloid- style stories of  $100,000 paid for a bottle of wine and $15,000 for a book, along with a $50,000-$60,000 dinner party hosted for then Labour minister, Rick Barker, and a donation to a rowing club, raged for several days.

By Wednesday, on 25 June,  the Herald was forced to retract  Liu’s claims. The “new” claim was that Liu’s  “donation” was,

… close to $100,000 and that is my closing comment in my statement…that is how much I believe I have donated in total to Labour and some of their MPs during their last term in Government.”

The so-called Yangtze River boat “dinner for Rick Barker” turned out to be some sort of staff function that Liu had invited the Labour minister to attend.

Only Liu’s donation – of $2,000 – to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, was confirmed.  Considering that any “link” between the NZ Labour Party and Hawkes Bay Rowing Club is tenuous at best (Barker’s daughter was a member of the club), any news-worthiness of this aspect of the Liu Affair was dubious at best.

Cunliffe’s 11 April 2003 letter was far from “avocating on Liu’s behalf”. Instead, the eleven year old letter turned out to be a stock-standard inquiry sent to Immigration NZ with the rather banal request ,

I am aware of the difficulties facing the Business Migration Branch of New Zealand Immigration Services in coping with the overwhelming numbers of applicants that have applied for consideration under these categories and the time taken to verify documents. However it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time period [sic] in which he could expect a decision on his case.

Requesting “an estimated period of time period” did not appear to be advocating in any true sense.

Consequently a formal complaint was laid with the Herald’s editor-in-Chief and NZ Press Council; and OIAs  lodged with Deputy PM,  Bill English; Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, and the Office of the Prime Minister.

On 21 August, the Press Council released their decision on my complaint – rejecting the complaint, but up-holding one aspect. The Council slated the Herald’s  “reliance on information from Mr Liu only, including his signed statement” and that  “the paper failed to adhere to a basic tenet of journalism…the need to have confirmation from a second source“.

Subsequent investigations by co-investigator, ‘Hercules’, and this blogger has uncovered the source of the original June 18 Herald story (as reported by Jared Savage); the motivations; and those responsible for what can only be described as another dirty trick from a Minister who will shortly be named.

On 16 September, we reported what appeared to be an orchestrated  Beehive plot to dig dirt for throwing at Labour leader, David Cunliffe, ahead of a crucial parliamentary debate.  Documents revealed in an official Ministry  paper trail linked Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, and the Parliamentary Press Gallery offices of the New Zealand Herald and TV3.

Hatched in National’s anticipation of a hammering in a debate on Wednesday 18 June (note the date) which in turn was prompted by the resignation of ACT leader, John Banks, the plot was pivotal on having Cunliffe first deny helping Auckland businessman Donghua Liu with his residency application – before producing an eleven-year-old letter from Immigration’s files as proof that the Opposition leader was either a liar or had suffered serious brain fade.

Further background stories

The Donghua Liu Affair:  Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

The Donghua Liu Affair: the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

The Donghua Liu Affair: The first step to a complaint to the Press Council

The Donghua Liu Affair: responses from NZ Herald and Prime Minister’s Office – Is the PM’s office fudging?

The Donghua Liu Affair: Evidence of Collusion between the NZ Herald and Immigration NZ?

The Donghua Liu Affair: the Press Council’s decision

The Donghua Liu Affair: The OIA Gambit

Additional material

The Donghua Liu Affair: The Players Revealed [document cache]

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