Did China Try to Infiltrate the Australian Parliament?
A while back I reported a story about Nick Zhao who was allegedly offered $1,000,000 by Melbourne businessman Brian Chen if he would run for pre-selection for the parliamentary seat of Chisholm in the Australian elections. It is not entirely clear how this money was intended to be used. However, it seems unlikely that the $1,000,000 was for personal use and more likely that the money was intended to be used to secure pre-selection for the Chisholm seat. That point aside, matters are not as straightforward as the early reporting might have indicated. In a more detailed story about Zhao we learn that Chen may have offered Zhao $1,000,000 in an effort to cultivate Zhao as an “asset” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Zhao contacted the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) around November 2019 to advise them of them he had been approached by Chen with the offer of a $1,000,000. ASIO took the information seriously and began to investigate Zhao’s claims.
The story also reports that Zhao spent 7 months in jail in 2018 before being bailed to live at his house in the Eastern suburb of Glen Iris. Zhao was still facing serious criminal charges at the time he reportedly made contact with ASIO, and was due to face trial in the Melbourne County Court the same week that he died. Given that Zhao was facing criminal charges in 2018, it seems at first sight highly unlikely that Zhao could realistically have run some kind of “covert campaign” to secure pre-selection to the Chisholm seat. After all, in Australia, pre-selection is a process in which the political party chooses candidates using a whole variety of different methods including party members voting by post through to a decision being made by a small select committee. However, thinking a little more deeply, $1,000,000 might go a very long way to swaying the votes of party members through, dare we say it, bribes. I imagine that the money could also be used in other ways. For example, wining and dining members of parliaments with influence in the candidature selection process.
Whilst Zhao’s criminal and financial woes might make it appear odd that he may have been approached to infiltrate Australian politics, targeting people in financial trouble may well be one of the strategies of the CCP. Basically, targeting Chinese Australians with financial difficulties could potentially make it easier to cultivate these individuals. To round off this story, at least for now, the fact that Nick Zhao was found dead in a motel room under mysterious circumstances was always going to raise questions about whether the Chinese Secret Service had anything to do with his death, something that is considered entirely possible in this story. However, it could equally be the case that Zhao decided to take his own life because he was facing personal and economic ruin. We will leave the story of Nick Zhao here and conclude by saying that at this point in time the truths of this story have not been established. There are too many question marks and with Nick Zhao now dead, it may be that we will never know the truth of the matter.
Chinese Spy Wang Leqiang Defects to Australia and Seeks Asylum
I have reported stories about a Chinese spy, Wang Leqiang, who had defected to Australia and was seeking asylum. I had a dim memory that there was more to this story than just Leqiang seeking asylum in Australia. Questions about his defection are raised by ABC news with a report questioning why Leqiang went to the media first rather than going to a government department or to ASIO. However, I don’t really see any substance to this concern. He may well have gone to the media first to ensure that he was in the public eye, thus making it more difficult for the CCP to simply vanish him or to murder him. The story also raises the question whether Leqiang might have been a double agent. However, this claim seems to be somewhat frivolous as there is absolutely no evidence to support the contention.
Question marks raised over Leqiang’s defection have so far not really carried any weight. However, this story points to claims by China that Leqiang was a criminal – he allegedly fraudulently obtained 4.6 million yuan ($960,000) through a “fake investment project” – before leaving China for Hong Kong under a false passport and a fake Hong Kong permanent resident ID at the time that the fraud case was opened against him. Remember that we are dealing with China here so I will present an equally plausible explanation for Leqiang’s actions. He did in fact leave China with a false passport and a false Hong Kong resident ID because he feared for his life. As for committing fraud, China simply made up those charges to discredit him. Sorry China but you simply lie too much for anyone to put any real stock in what you have to say.
Having come out as a spy, Leqiang expressed concerns for his life, saying that he would be killed if he had to go back to China. When asked about Leqiang’s man’s safety, Scott Morrison, in a piece of complete buffoonery, replied something along the lines of, “This is Australia and we live under the rule of law“. Thankfully, an interviewee on the panel that was taking a look at the story makes the point very strongly that being in Australia would make not a jot of difference should the CCP want to target someone. Not convinced. Take a look at this story on China’s detention laws which also details significant personalities who simply vanished in China in 2018. Moving beyond China, look at the case of 5 publishers who went missing from Hong Kong. Make no mistake. If the CCP wanted to vanish someone in Australia they could do it with consummate ease.
Australian Universities Exhibit Extreme Naivety in Research Collaborations with China
Working as I do for an Australian University, I have had a bit of a focus on Chinese students and Chinese researchers in Australia particularly in terms of how these students and researchers might be tied to China. Over the last few weeks I have cited a couple of stories in this respect but I have never had concrete details about research relationships with China. This story changes that fact reporting, for example, that the Australian National University has 30 collaborations with Chinese defence Universities with projects including ariel robots, drones and research that could help stealth fighters hide themselves when communicating with military bases. As a second example, a Chinese Professor at the University of Queensland set up a company in China called Koala AI that is commercializing his research and applying it to monitor Chinese citizens.
Australian Universities Have an Unforgiveable Over Reliance on Income from Chinese Students
I am reminded of articles that I have read over the past few weeks which have talked broadly about China laughing at the West because we are so stupid. Well, engaging in sensitive technological research with China seems to me to be pretty stupid as is funding a Chinese researcher from tax payer money when the researcher is commercializing his research to produce surveillance technologies for China. Equally stupid is the fact that Australian Universities staked their finances and their futures on the International student market – particularly China and India – and now these Universities are in significant financial trouble that will impact them for years to come. This will lead to significant reductions in spending along with substantial job losses. Deakin University provides one such example of a University that has been substantially impacted by travel bans and a fall in International student numbers. Deakin estimates that the university will lose $250–$300 million by the end 2021 and flags that redundancies are inevitable.
There are other interesting facets to the stories surrounding Australian Universities. Although this information is a little out of date – for example, Iain Martin has replaced Jane den Hollander as Vice Chancellor at Deakin University – the point that I want to make is that nearly all Australian Vice Chancellor’s earn over $1 million per annum with the University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor earning $1.5 million dollars per annum. This brings us to a basic question. Why were the Vice Chancellors’ management skills so poor that they left their Universities exposed to a significant risk by relying too heavily on International Student fees? I know that this argument is a complex one – for example, severe cuts in government funding to universities resulted in Australian Universities seeking income from overseas – but the point remains. Why such a heavy reliance on International students?
There is a news story from August 2019 that was prophetic about the over reliance of Australian universities on international students. The story argues that if Chinese students were to leave Australia then “our whole system could collapse”. And such has turned out to be the case in 2020. So, we have known for a long time that Australian universities have placed a heavy reliance on overseas students for their income. However, the actual amount of income generated from overseas students is staggering. The international student market in Australia is worth $35 billion dollars and the Chinese student market constitutes 40% of that figure so somewhere around $15 billion comes from Chinese students. In terms of students numbers, around 400,000 international students were enrolled in Australian universities in 2018 and one third of those students came from China. Looking at these figures in another way, international student enrolments make up 25% of all enrolments in Australian Universities.
The Problem with Having so Many Chinese Students at Australian Universities
Recently, four Federal Liberal MPs have expressed concern of the amount of influence that Chinese Communist Party holds over Australian Universities warning University leaders about the need to protect free speech and to protect national security.
If this fact seems a little unbelievable then note that in the story that I am reporting, there seems to be evidence that the family of a Chinse student in Australia was “approached” the CCP and warned of the consequences of political dissent after their son attended a protest at an Australian University. Another question to ask concerns how we got to the point where the University of Sydney now accepts the Chinese National College Entrance Exam, the Gaokao in admitting Chinese students to the university. Chinese students only needing to attain a 70% pass in that exam. One line of argument is that entry standards in Australia are lower for Chinese students than in, for example, the United States where Chinese students would need to pass the SAT in order to enter an American University.
Another really disturbing aspect of this story is that Chinese students who enter Australian Universities on a pathway program get a visa to stay in Australia once they have graduated with a University degree. Some might think that fact is bad enough but Australia also has family reunion visa scheme and so once the student has obtained the visa they can bring their family into Australia. Apparently Australia is the only country that has such a program. Someone cynical might venture that Australia is essentially selling visa pathways to Chinese students who are pretty much guaranteed to pass their course because Universities have no interest in failing international students who are keeping Australian universities financially afloat through the fees that they pay. Even more so, Australia makes it easy for these students to enter into a degree course through a pathway program if the students have not achieved the required International English Language Testing Score (IELTS). Students who compete the pathway are not required to re-take the IELTS test.
So, we’ve looked at University reliance on Chinese students and we’ve considered at lest one deleterious effect of having so many Chinese students in Australia, namely that admitting Chinese students through pathway programmes can lead to the granting of a visa and to the family’s of these students then being able to come into Australia. This potentially extends the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in Australia because, as already mentioned, the CCP can try to coerce the Chinese diaspora into carrying out CCP wishes through threatening the family members of these diaspora Chinese who are still resident in China. Beyond the fact of coercion, we actually have no idea how many of these Chinese students remain loyal to the CCP and willingly do the bidding of the CCP in Australia.
From this perspective one might feel rather pleased that Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, told visitor visa holders and international students to “go home” as the Chinse Wuhan virus unfolded in Australia in early April 2020. Of course, Vice Chancellors did not see matters in quite the same way. Iain Martin, the Vice Chancellor of Deakin expressed that he was, “profoundly disappointed that the Commonwealth Government has decided to cast international students adrift at this time”. There would be reasons for such disappointment. For example, the fear that these students might become disaffected with Australia and not come back once the Chinese virus has been brought under control. That, however, is unlikely because of the prestigious nature of Australian degrees in the eyes of the Chinese.
Of course, one never knows what will happen as this Chinese virus continues to infect millions of people and to kill hundreds of thousands of people. Currently the world is reacting reasonably strongly against China in a whole host of ways – for example, calling for a full independent inquiry into what actually happened in Wuhan when the Chinese first discovered the virus – and it is likely that what we are seeing now with respect to the world’s anger towards China is only the tip of the iceberg. Imagine how the world will react if numbers of cases rise to half a billion and if the resultant deaths run into the millions. As for the Chinese students, I believe that Australian Universities will try to lure them back because apparently the only other significant potential market, India, does not have sufficient wealthy families to generate the kind of income that Australian universities need from international students.
Chinese Investors Have Leased the Port of Darwin and They Are Making Their Presence Felt
Another train of thought that I have been following for a while has to do with Chinese investors buying up assets in Australia such as farm land, the means of dairy production and vineyards. Whilst I still have some way to go with rounding out my thoughts on this issue, this story provides a very comprehensive overview of just what the Chinese are buying up in Australia. The story also puts some dollar figures against the purchases. For example, a group of Chinese investors agreed to lease a port in Melbourne for 7 billion dollars. Chinese investors have already leased the Darwin Port for $506 million with the lease lasting for 99 years. Whilst I have reported stories such as these in previous journal entries, I have never really looked at what might be the CCPs strategic aims in purchasing land etc. in Australia.
Let’s continue with the Darwin Port example. The story that we are looking at – published 19th March 2019 – talks about China’s blue print model of offering loans to countries – for example, poor Pacific Island nations – and then when the countries can’t repay the loans, China seizes assets and infrastructure thereby giving China a presence in the country. China has done this in Sri Lanka calling in a loan that Sri Lanka could not repay and taking over a port as a result which means that the port is now Chinese owned. The fact that the Chinese have leased the Port of Darwin means that we are not looking at a scenario in which China seizes the port. After all they have leased it. However, China is employing the blueprint model in Port Darwin by having an interest in a $200 million dollar luxury hotel being built by Landbridge – a private company with alleged links to China – on the waterfront to entrench its strategic position.
The strategic importance of the hotel is that it is being built right next to Government House and Parliament House. Again it might seem difficult to understand how this hotel might really benefit the CCP but that is because the West tends to think in terms of 5 year strategies whilst China thinks in terms of generational strategies. In other words we have to imagine what Port Darwin might look like in roughly 100 years time after China has increasingly invested in and expanded its presence in Port Darwin. We also need to think about what the Australian population will look like in 100 years if we allow Chinese immigration to continue unchecked. It is entirely conceivable that Australia will no longer be Australian. Australian land, Australian dairy farming, Australian vineyards and Australian ports will all be owned by the CCP and the Chinese population in Australia, many of whom will be loyal to the CCP, will be in positions of strategic and political importance. Australia will essentially be run by the CCP.
You can choose to put some credence in this theory or not but irrespective I would offer the following regarding the Darwin Port hotel development. Former Federal Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, worked for Landbridge although not at the time that the deal for the hotel was signed. I’m going to quote something that Robb said because it speaks not just to the fact that the CCP is seeking to embed itself in Australia but also to the fact that there are Australians who are active in enabling this to happen. Thus, Robb told the Guardian in late 2015 that,
Landbridge’s commitment to the growth of the Port of Darwin will be a huge spur to the development of Australia’s north, serving as a catalyst for the entry of major investment right across the port’s upstream supply chain in agriculture, resources and energy and economic infrastructure.
Assuming the connection to China, this is rather like saying, “Come on China, buy up our agriculture, buy up our resources and energy production, get your hands on as much of our infrastructure as you possibly can.” Again, you have to remember that China thinks in terms of a generational strategy. In this respect imagine that Australia has been stupid enough to allow Chinese investment in the Northern Territory to go unchecked so that over a period of roughly 100 years China essentially owns the port, land, resources and economic infrastructure right across the Northern Territory. Robb has been very outspoken about Australia’s relationship with China – or at least about the way in which some politicians have spoken about and characterized China as a security threat – and the reason for this would seem to be rather obvious. Robb was trying to advance Chinese business interests, something which in turn served his own interests.
If we turn to the actual building of the hotel then is it any real wonder that there is some controversy around the subdivision application that quite suddenly referred to the building of townhouses and residential complexes in addition to the luxury hotel. Again, this is a fact – reported in June 2017 – that might not seem particularly worrisome but, as I have said, think in a 100 year time frame. First a few townhouses and residential complexes are added. Then the complex is expanded to include additional hotel accommodation and more townhouses and residential complexes around the waterfront. The Chinese community increases significantly and “exercise further soft power and ingratiate themselves and show how they’re contributing to the local community“. They buy up a substantial percentage of the housing market and embed Chinese assets in senior positions within the community including funding loyal Chinese CCP members to run for parliament. As the Chinese community grows exponentially, the likelihood of CCP candidates being elected to parliament increases significantly. All conjecture of course but we really would be stupid to believe that the CCP has Australia’s best interests at heart.
The West Really Should Get Its Facts Right About Wet Markets and Exotic Animal Markets
Another loose end that I wanted to tidy up has to do with stories I looked at a few weeks ago discussing China’s wet markets and the trade in exotic animals. I seemed to sense some confusion with wet markets being conflated with markets trading in wild and exotic animals, something that happens towards the end of this news story along with another news story published as recently as 14th March 2020 (it is currently the 24th March). The confusion has now been cleared up thanks to a very cogent article which states that, “Though erroneous, in the eyes of westerners, these places are inextricably associated with wild animal markets“. The article argues that wet markets tend to sell seafood and that whilst they do have sections that sell poultry, these markets do not trade in wild and exotic animals. This makes sense of the fact that China has banned trade in wild and exotic animals whilst re-opening the wet markets.
Having cleared up the confusion regarding the difference between wet markets and live animal / exotic markets it should be noted, as the author of this article does, that, Asian governments should clean up the wet markets because they have been the source of virus outbreaks in the past. Thus we might question the wisdom of the World Health Organization in supporting the reopening of wet markets in China. Perhaps the WHO continues to do China’s bidding just as it did in conspiring with China to cover up the Coronavirus outbreak for a period of about 6 weeks and through advising countries against closing their borders. In Australia this included China’s ambassador to Australia using the World Health Organisation to lobby for the country’s Chinese travel ban to be removed in the early days of the outbreak.
If you watch the interview with the Chinese Ambassador you will see a brainwashed Chinese CCP loyalist towing the party line and lying about the Covid-19 situation in China – including using the word “cure” when talking about the virus – whilst tying himself up in knots over the situation in China. In his arrogance – which is really the arrogance of the CCP whose words he is mouthing – he also chastises Australia for having border controls in place. Perhaps the most sickening part of the interview – and there are many – is when the Ambassador sings the praises of Dr Li Wenliang the doctor who first tried to tell the world about the virus. Li Wenliang was actually condemned by the CCP and detained before he allegedly and rather conveniently died of the virus. I cannot stress this enough. Watch the video of the Ambassador. He is given enough rope to hang himself and epitomizes the repugnant nature of a CCP lacky.
First Published April 20th, 2020