Justice Minister Judith Collins says she cannot remember the name of a senior Chinese government official whose attendance at a dinner in Beijing raises fresh questions about her relationship with a milk and scampi company linked to her husband.
Last night Collins gave an assurance there was nothing more to come out that would embarrass Prime Minister John Key over her trip to China. She had been summoned to account for her time there to Key's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, after questions about her links to Oravida, which employs her husband as a director.
Key said yesterday Collins had handled questions about her trip to China poorly and said he would "not want to be in her shoes" if there were any further embarrassing revelations.
The unnamed Chinese official was one of four people at a dinner in Beijing which Collins failed to disclose to Key or media, despite a barrage of questions last week about her relationship with Oravida, after she was quoted on the company's Chinese language website praising its products.
The Cabinet Manual bars ministers from endorsing any products and Key was forced to admit this week that the Cabinet Office failed to get a Chinese translation before advising that Collins had broken no rules.
The other three people at the dinner were Oravida owner Stone Shi, managing director Julia Xu, and Collins' senior adviser.
Collins said she did not disclose the dinner in her Cabinet report or to Key or media because she had considered it a private dinner with close personal friends. Shi and Xu were regular visitors to her and husband David Wong-Tung's home, and were so close they had spent Christmas together, Collins said.
When asked yesterday to name the Chinese official, Collins said it was not practice to do so and later told Campbell Live she could not remember his name anyway.
But she earlier confirmed that he was a border security official invited by Shi, whose company would deal with the agency through its export business. The dinner was one of three meetings with Oravida during Collins' taxpayer-funded trip to China, which she said last night was partly funded by the Chinese Government. The other meetings were her factory visit, and a lunch attended by representatives from Fonterra, Nestle and New Zealand government officials.
Collins' dealing with Oravida has also exposed the extensive links between National and Shi, a Chinese-born businessman who has given tens of thousands of dollars to the National Party.
Key said the cumulative effects of Collins' interactions with Oravida could lead to a perception of a conflict of interest. "I made clear to her in no uncertain terms how disappointed I was."
- The Dominion Post
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