SINGAPORE: Attempts by China to exert influence in Australia are posing a threat to the nation’s sovereignty, according to an investigation released in articles and television programmes by Fairfax Media and ABC.
The joint Fairfax Media-ABC investigation, which was released on Monday (Jun 5), claimed that Beijing is active in Australia across a wide span of areas, from Chinese-linked donations to Australian politicians to threats to Australia-based Chinese dissidents and involvement with Chinese student associations.
Over the course of five months, the investigation said it uncovered how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was “secretly infiltrating Australia”.
BUYING ‘ACCESS AND INFLUENCE’
According to the ABC, business leaders “allied to Beijing” are using donations to major political parties in Australia to “buy access and influence, and in some cases to push policies that may be contrary to Australia’s national interest”.
The report focused on two Chinese-born billionaires who were featured in a diagram drawn up by analysts working for the director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Duncan Lewis, which showed the Chinese Communist Party connected with lines to the two men.
The diagram was reportedly created for Mr Lewis to show senior officials of Australia’s major political parties and to warn them about accepting political donations from foreign sources.
''[Lewis] said 'be careful','' said a source who was aware of what Mr Lewis told party officials, according to the report.
"He was saying that the connections between these guys and the Communist Party is strong," said another political figure briefed about the content of the ASIO warning. ASIO also reportedly warned that the donors could be channels to advance Beijing's interests.
Mr Lewis reportedly stressed that neither billionaire was accused of any crime, but he sought to describe how Beijing coopted influential businessmen and rewarded those who assisted the Chinese Communist Party.
‘INFLUENCE AND CONTROL’
Outside of politicians and donors, the investigation also explored Beijing’s influence on ordinary Chinese living in Australia.
Some one million ethnic Chinese live in Australia and these people are targets of the CCP’s operations, either through influence or coercion, the investigation claimed.
The investigation explored the CCP’s influence on Australia’s estimated 100,000 Chinese students through university campuses and Chinese students’ and scholars’ associations.
These associations are “sponsored” by Chinese embassy and consular officials, the investigation said, adding that they are seen by the CCP as a way to maintain control over its overseas students.
When China’s premier Li Keqiang visited Australia in March, Chinese embassy officials reportedly played an active role in organising a big student rally to welcome him.
The embassy provided flags, transport, food, a lawyer and certificates for students to help them find jobs back in China, Lupin Lu, president of the Canberra University Students’ and Scholars’ Association, told reporters.
However, she said that “I wouldn’t really call it helping”, but that “it’s more sponsoring”, adding that fellow students were at the rally because of their pride at China’s economic success.
When asked by reporters if she would alert the embassy if a human rights protest was being organised by dissident Chinese students, she said she “definitely” would, “just to keep all students safe… and to do it for China as well”.
INFLUENCE ON CHINA NATIONALS
The reports also cited the experience of Tony Chang, a student at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) who was granted a protection visa by the Australian government after threats to his parents who were back in China.
In a sworn statement to Australian immigration authorities, Chang said that state security agents in China had approached his parents in Shenyang to warn them to rein in his activism, citing his involvement in Tibetan independence organisations and Chinese democracy movement organisations.
“The SBSS (Shenyang Bureau of State Security) agents pressed the point that my parents must ask me to stop what I am part taking (sic) in and keep a low profile in the coming days. The reason is that they were anticipating that I would be involved in Tiananmen Square Massacre remembrance events, and the fact that the Dalai Lama would be coming to Australia,” Chang said in his statement.
“This act of a direct threat by the SBSS solidifies my belief that if I return to China I will undoubtedly suffer serious harm at the hands of the Chinese government, which will amount to persecution.”
Don Ma, the owner of the independent Vision China Times publication, reportedly had 10 advertisers pull their advertising after being threatened by Chinese officials.
According to the investigation, this included a company whose Beijing office was visited every day for two weeks by China’s Ministry of State Security until it cut ties with the Vision China Times.
"I felt that the media here, all the Chinese media, was being controlled by overseas forces," Ma said in the reports.
"This is harmful to the Australian society. It is also harmful to the next generation of Chinese. Therefore, I felt I wanted to invest in a truly independent media that fits in with Australian values."