Mr Yang, a member of WA’s Upper House, said he “overlooked” declaring his memberships of the Northeast China Federation Inc and the Association of Great China on his parliamentary register of interests.
“As of this morning, I resigned as a member of both the Northeast China Federation and the Association of Great China,” he said in a statement after a story about the memberships was published by News Corp on Tuesday morning.
“I overlooked including them on my returns, along with my membership of the William Langford Community House.”
Mr Yang also confirmed to the ABC that he was a volunteer legal adviser for the Northeast China Federation Inc and the Association of Great China until August 2017, which was several months after his parliamentary term commenced in May 2017.
But he said he had never “done legal work” for any of the organisations.
The 35-year-old, who was born in China’s Heilongjiang province, is Labor’s whip in WA’s Legislative Council.
Members of the WA Parliament are required to declare any “positions in trade unions and professional or business associations” on their parliamentary register of interests.
On his return dated May 22, 2017, Mr Yang declared he was a member of various organisations, including the Chinese community association Chung Wah, the WA Chinese Chamber of Commerce and a local Men’s Shed.
But he did not declare his membership of the Northeast China Federation Inc or the Association of Great China.
Group ‘is affiliated with Communist Party’
Catherine Yeung, the former head of Chinese Studies at Perth’s Curtin University, said the Northeast China Federation Inc is affiliated with the United Front Work Department — a Communist Party agency promoting China’s political interests overseas.
She said the Association of Great China signed a letter supporting China’s claim of sovereignty in the South China Sea.
“I’m just wondering what is an Australian politician’s role in the organisations?” she said.
But Mr Yang said his loyalty was to Australia.
“I am an active member of the community, and am engaged with multiple community groups,” Mr Yang said in a statement to the ABC.
“I am a proud Australian citizen. My allegiance is to Australia.”
Mr Yang said he “supports the right of all nations to exercise freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea — which is Australia’s position.
But shadow minister for government accountability Tjorn Sibma rejected Mr Yang’s explanation.
“I find Mr Yang’s excuse that he ‘overlooked’ his membership of two associations which promote the foreign policy interests of the Chinese Government to be highly improbable,” Mr Sibma said.
“All incoming members of Parliament are briefed by the clerks about their disclosure responsibilities.
“Mr Yang is an intelligent man and would have clearly understood his obligation to disclose his memberships.
“Furthermore, as the Government’s whip in the Legislative Council he is very familiar with the standing orders.”
WA Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said Mr Yang must make a statement to Parliament explaining himself.
“It is disconcerting that Mr Yang did not declare those associations in his disclosure documents,” Dr Nahan said.
“He said it was overlooked — it’s hard to think that those were overlooked. It’s ok to overlook a bowling club but not one of those associations.”
The Association of Great China’s website features a message from the former WA Premier Colin Barnett, praising it for, “enhancing cultural exchange between WA and mainland China, and in its extensive work in assisting the settlement of new arrivals to Western Australia”.
Premier stands by MP
In a statement, WA Premier Mark McGowan said Mr Yang was a “valued and respected member” of his team, “who I have the utmost respect for”.
“His proud service for this country, serving as a Captain of the Australian Army Reserve, speaks volumes of him,” he said.
“Pierre is one of the most genuine, nicest and considerate people I know and he has my full confidence.”
WA Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia had not read News Corp’s story when asked about it by reporters on Tuesday, but defended Mr Yang’s character.
“Pierre Yang is an excellent member of parliament, he’s an army reserve officer, he’s a lawyer, he’s a high-achieving Western Australian migrant to this country, a model citizen and I think if there’s any claims of that nature then I haven’t seen any evidence of that,” he said.
“I would be certain that the ASIO and the relevant defence agencies have vetted an officer in the army reserve.”