Dan O'Heirity

China’s United Front Work Department

It seems like a lifetime ago now but early on in these journal entries I drew attention to a Chinese entity called the “United Front Work Department” (UFWD). The UFWD, with a history that is embedded in the idea of the United Front in China, can appear to be a somewhat complicated organization but it is essentially made up of a number of bureaus, along with various offices and a department committee. The “Policy and Theory Research Office”, for example, is responsible for ideological and policy research and for propaganda internal to China. The “Policy and Theory Research Office” also works with other government agencies to develop propaganda efforts abroad. The “First Bureau—Party Work Bureau”  manages the eight minor political parties that are allowed to operate in China in addition to the Chinese Communist Party. The “Second Bureau—Minority and Religious Work Bureau”, conducts research into and recommends policy on minorities and religious affairs in the country.

You can visit the Wikipedia page or read a very detailed report from the US Economic and Security Review Commission, “China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States” if you want to delve into the history of the UFWD. Wikipedia will also tell you about the functions of the other offices and bureaus. The point that I want to make is that if you take the work of the UFWD at face value, then the role of the UFWD is, quite legitimately, one of managing political parties, conducting research and generating policy recommendations for the CCP. However, the problem is, as far as the world concerned, that the work of the UFWD should not be taken at face value. A succinct summary of the “actual work” of the UFWD would be that the department, through its various bureaus and offices, has responsibility for furthering Xi Jinping’s thoughts and vision, both at home and abroad. This work includes trying to exert an influence over the Chinese diaspora by, for example, ensuring that the Chinese abroad remain loyal to China. Enter Gladys Liu who is in “hot water over her alleged association with the United Front Work Department“.

Gladys Liu, There’s No Smoke Without Fire

In my original entry, which I am going to expand upon here, the influence of the UFWD in Australia was raised because the Member of Parliament for Chisholm, Melbourne in the State of Victoria, Gladys Liu was identified as being on the Committee of two chapters of the China Overseas Exchange Program between 2003-2015.

Despite the interviewer, Andrew Bolt, having two documents that name Gladys Liu as being on Committees for two chapters of the China Overseas Exchange Program, Gladys Liu responds that she was never on these committees. At this point, you can make what you will of Glady’s Liu’s interview. Perhaps she just interviewed very badly. Perhaps she really had forgotten about her associations with these organizations. Or, perhaps she was caught out by Andrew Bolt and decided to just lie in the hope that the lie would go away.

The Fire Has Turned Into a Full-Scale Blaze

There was, following the interview with Andrew Bolt, some early reporting on Gladys Liu doing a volte face and admitting that she was in fact a member of the two Committees that Andrew Bolt had questioned her about. Liu also admitted to additional associations that Bolt had not questioned her about.

Liu eventually admitted to being Honorary President of the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia, Honorary President of the Australian Jingmen Commercial Association Inc. and to having an honorary role in 2011 with the Guangdong Overseas Exchange Association. Remember, this is a woman who only the day before said she could not recall having any relationships with these kinds of organizations. She also categorically denied having any relationship with the China Overseas Exchange Program.

The interview with Andrew Bolt has quite fairly been described as a “train wreck” for Gladys Liu as she appears, at best, to have been evasive and underhand, and at worst to have been simply lying in the face of documented evidence proving that she was a member of the aforementioned two committees. This being the case Gladys Liu – as we have seen in the previous video – back peddled the next day admitting that she had been a member of three Committees including the China Overseas Exchange Association Committees that Andrew Bolt had questioned her about in his interview where Gladys Liu categorically denied that she had been a member of those Committees.

She explains her affiliation with the other organizations by saying that she was an Honorary President of the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia and Honorary President of the Australian Jingmen Commercial Association Inc. in 2016. Again, it is worth watching the video above in full. In both cases Gladys Liu is at pains to point out that she no longer has associations with these organizations. So here’s a question. If both associations are above board, why the need to emphasize that she no longer has associations with either organization?

There Are Money Questions For Liu That Just Won’t Go Away

Matters do not get better for Glady’s Liu with questions being raised about $1 million that Liu raised through donations to the Liberal Party. For example, where exactly did the money come from and what might donors be expecting in return for such substantial contributions.

This question broadens out in the video into the question of the increasingly significant influence that, for example, Chinese business men and women are having in Australian politics. Although not reported in this video, my original journal entry on Gladys Liu also included some “unpleasantness” within the Liberal Party to do with Gladys Liu apparently funding her own campaign to the tune of $100,000. Liu’s position was that this was her own money and that she was expecting to have the $100,000 returned. However, the Liberal Party had understood that the $100,000 was a donation to the party.

Unfortunately for Gladys Liu, there have been other financial questions including the fact that Ms Liu seems to have failed to have declared a $40,000 donation to the Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party, something that may have meant a possible breach in disclosure laws.

Just to note that the State Branch did declare the donation to the Electoral Commission but that does not really help Gladys Liu if it really was the case that she failed to declare the donation. I would have to say at this point in the story that either Gladys Liu is one of the most incompetent MPs ever to find their way into Parliament – a fact that should speak to having her removed – or there is something else going on with Gladys Liu. In terms of the latter proposal, one might say that each individual story does not amount to convincing evidence that there is more to Gladys Liu than she would have you believe. However, if you start to look at the stories as a whole then a reasonable conclusion would be that there is something not quite right.

The Racism Card Comes Out Again as Australian Prime Minister Defends Gladys Liu

I have made this point on so many occasions that it is just not funny. Asking important questions that may ultimately relate to matters of national security, questions that are evidenced in terms of concrete documentation, does not constitute racism. Racism is, “the assumption or prediction of behaviour on the basis of race” e.g. saying all Chinese politicians are corrupt and in the pocket of the CPP would be racist. Questioning whether a particular Chinese politician has ties to organizations that try to further China’s strategic agenda in Australia is not racist. And so to it. What does Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, do in response to Labour MPs questioning him about Gladys Liu. He calls them racist.

Again, as I have said on many occasions, charges of racism come from the weak minded or the embattled who actually have no real line of argument. Thus, they resort to playing the racism card because this is a guaranteed way to shut people up for fear that they might be tarred with the racism brush.

The Attorney General Does Gladys Liu Proud

Whilst the Prime Minister saw fit to play the racism card it would be fair to say that the Attorney General put forward a much more robust and well argued defence of Gladys Liu.

Early on his speech it looked as thought he might not carry the day but, unfortunately for Labour, the Attorney General had evidence that one of Labour’s own MPs had had travelled to China and Hong Kong as a guest of the Guangdong Chamber of Commerce and the Communist Party of China. In the evidence upon which the Attorney General was drawing, the MP had reported, “I engaged in high level meetings with business and government officers.” And that was all that the Attorney General needed to carry the day because he then turned the logic of Labour’s arguments against Gladys Liu against them by asking if the visit meant that there MP was a communist. It was a beautiful moment for the Attorney General.

However, the flaw in the argument is that the Labour MP had had travelled to China and Hong Kong as a guest of the Guangdong Chamber of Commerce and the Communist Party of China had declared the visit in the Parliamentary register. In other words, the Labour MP had been completely open and transparent about his visit to China. Such was not the case with Gladys Liu who, by all accounts, had sought to hide her associations with various organizations when interviewed by Andrew Bolt. I maintain that this is the case even though the Attorney General argues that Gladys Liu was just confused on some matters in the Bolt interview. The other point here is that Liu’s integrity is being questioned on a number of fronts rather than just in terms of her either “forgetting” or “hiding” her association with a variety of Chinese organizations. Some might argue that Liu is the victim of a “witch hunt”. However, Liu has shown herself to be a very capable “political operator”, perhaps a little too capable.

When Your Last Name is Wong, You Get to Seriously Question the Prime Minister on Racism

In the next video the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, takes Labour to task over the allegations made against the Member for Chisholm, Gladys Liu. First, and most importantly, let’s note that Penny Wong calls Scott Morrison’s use of the racist card “grubby” and she asks whether politicians would be called racist if they were to ask her a difficult question. She then speaks for several minutes on the nature of the Chinese community in Australia and on her own experiences as a woman with Chinese ancestry. Basically, shame on Scott Morrison.

Moving on, Penny Wong points out quite rightly that the Parliament has not heard a single word from Gladys Liu in the Parliament and she says that MPs are “horrified at the Prime Ministers failure to assure the national interests”. Notably Penny Wong then asks how people are supposed to have confidence in Gladys Liu when she will not make herself accountable. Finally, following the logic of one of my arguments above, she notes that Glady’s Liu is not a novice in politics having been involved in politics for a number of years. In other words, inexperience is not an excuse for Glady’s Liu’s failures.

Sky News Host Andrew Bolt Goes Too Far in Trying to Smear Gladys Liu

Sky News Host Andrew Bolt has delivered a report about the fact that the Chinese Communist Party preferred Gladys Liu over her Taiwanese opponent during the Australian elections when Liu was running for the parliamentary seat of Chisholm. Andrew Bolt is “reaching” somewhat in this report because on one level his “reporting” is really just about a news story in China that is recounting what Gladys Liu has been doing in Australia.

Thus, whilst Bolt opens by saying that he is going to show “troubling footage” of news reporting about Liu in China, he says, almost in the same breath, that there is nothing “dramatic” about the footage. Ultimately, the only really telling point that Bolt makes is that Liu must be “liked” by the Chinese Communist Party meaning that she has never done anything to “offend” the CCP otherwise they would not be reporting on her activities in Australia. I am reminded of Bolt’s original interview with Gladys Liu where he pressed her on whether she agreed with the Government position that China had stolen the South China Sea. Gladys Liu simply refused to answer the question which did not do her any favours as it appeared that she was unwilling to say something that might have offended the CCP.

Would It Be Fair to Say That Gladys Liu is Not Fit to Be a Member of Parliament?

And so we come to the end of the story of Gladys Liu. The evidence is certainly not conclusive with regard to Gladys Liu being, for example loyal to the CCP and, perhaps, trying to exert CCP influence in Australia and in Australian politics. However, the evidence certainly points to someone who had ties with Chinese organizations which may have been seeking to exert influence in Australia. The evidence also points most certainly to the fact that Glady’s Liu appears to have been “disingenuous” about her affiliations with an array of Chinese organizations before quickly changing her story in the face of overwhelming evidence contradicting her claims. Finally, questions around Liu’s fundraising for the Liberal Party do not help her case. Given these points, it seems more than fair, as Penny Wong pointed out, to expect Gladys Liu to have given an account of herself. However, at this point in time Liu has not spoken to parliament on these matters.

First Published May 7th, 2020

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