Two prominent figures in the New Zealand Chinese community have been killed in a horror three-car pile up in Tokoroa.
Auckland men Yuezhong Wang and Weiguo Xi died in the crash on State Highway 1 near Galaxy Road in Tokoroa on Tuesday.
The men have been described as ‘hugely influential’ members of the New Zealand Chinese community and were on their way to present a petition to parliament on the influence of the Chinese Communist Party when the accident occurred.
New Zealand Chinese community members have speculated whether the pair were victims of a sabotage attack.
Three others were seriously injured in the crash including another influential figure Yu Hongming, who was travelling in the same car as the deceased and a mother and daughter from another vehicle.
All three are recovering in Waikato Hospital, with Hongming in intensive care.
Canterbury University professor and close friend of the deceased Anne-Marie Brady told Stuff she feared there was a motive behind the tragedy.
‘These people are so important and so brave – they speak for the silent majority and the Chinese community in New Zealand,’ she said.
‘They feel very unsafe and have this fear it could be more than just an accident. I have asked the police to look into whether there could have been sabotage.’
Xi was chairman of the Federation for Democratic China’s New Zealand branch, while Wang was part of the Independent Chinese Pen writers’ association.
Dr Brady made a submission to the justice select committee discussing the possibility of Chinese political interference in New Zealand on Thursday.
She said debate of whether the activists had been targeted highlighted the level of fear expressed in the New Zealand Chinese community.
‘Whether there is [sabotage] or not, the fact that that was an instant response of the people in that community shows how vulnerable they feel, how unsafe they feel,’ Dr Brady said.
Police assessment of the crash site found that a northbound vehicle had glanced a southbound vehicle after crossing the centre line before a head-on collision with a third vehicle.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the accident.