Below are several of my first-hand experiences, and some second-hand information, obtained through investigation and research detailing the infiltration by the Chinese Communist Party into Australian society.
The iron fist on the Chinese Community
When any Chinese community group obtains a certain degree of influence, it becomes inevitable that the Chinese Consulate exerts its control over it. For example, I had a few friends who helped found the Sydney Chinese Zhi-qing Association, which developed quickly and achieved a fair amount of influence (Zhi-qing is a Chinese term that refers to displaced people who were forced to work in the rural regions as part of the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976). The Chinese Consulate quickly intervened. The President of the association, Zhaohui Xu, brought two Consular officials to an Association Committee meeting. The Consulate informed Xu that the associate committee included pro-democracy advocates and Falun Gong practitioners amongst its members and as a result, the committee was dissolved.
The Sydney Chinese Zhi-qing Association was then reformed under the heavy involvement and control of the Chinese Consulate. The reform process included expelling every dissident. According to a 2013 report, a Chinese Consulate official delivered a speech during the first event after the takeover, emphasising “a series of achievements the Zhi-qing Association made after reformation”.
I recently met an elderly man who claimed that the Dong Guan Township Association has met with the same fate. This Association had several decades of history, yet it has still fallen within the clasp of the Chinese Consulate.
Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr once claimed that there was no evidence of Consulate control over Chinese community groups, but the evidence is abundant.
During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Australia, the Chinese media Sydney Today published a report online stating that the welcome activities were led by the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China and detailed how well each Chinese community group had carried out their command. The founding Chairman of the ACPPRC, William Chiu, has since passed. Last year, the Sun Herald published a report revealing Chiu as a member of the Communist Party in Malaysia.
How the Chinese Communist Party controls overseas Chinese
Firstly, the Party entices individuals through benefits. For example, the President of the Sydney Chinese Zhi-qing Association, Zhao Hui Xu, has bragged about his return to China where he was greeted by provincial leaders and even had a police motorcade to clear the roads for him. Xu’s successor was reported to have been invited to participate in the Jiangsu Provincial Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and allowed access to Tiananmen Gate Tower on Chinese National Day. Although they are nameless in Australia, they are treated like statesmen in China.
Secondly, the Chinese government intimidates. For example, the Chinese government threatened the Sydney Chinese Zhi-qing Association that if any dissenters remained in management, members of the association would not be issued visas to China and even their families in China would be implicated. Often, when individuals post critical comments of the Chinese Communist Party online, their families in the Mainland urge them not to speak up as the state security department would come knocking on their doors.
Intervention in Australian elections
In March 1999, around the time of the NSW election, my friends introduced me to Peter Wong, leader of the Unity Party. I was chosen as the Party’s Hornsby candidate. Soon after, the Chinese Consulate sought out Wong and wanted to know why the Unity Party had selected a pro-democracy advocate as one of its candidates. If this continues, the Consulate threatened, they would mobilise the Chinese community to oppose the Unity Party.
Wong became anxious upon hearing this. He sought me out in private and said: “Can you guarantee the Chinese Consulate that you will no longer participate in the Pro-democracy movement? In exchange, the Chinese consulate will issue you a visa to go back to China.” I had tried to return to China to visit my ill mother during the previous two years, but I was rejected.
I turned down the proposal. I told Wong that the only thing I could guarantee was that my involvement with the Unity Party had nothing to do with the Pro-democracy movement. I will not compromise with the Communist Party.
Australian government departments have rarely revealed such incidents to the general public. This is the first time I have openly revealed this incident, for I want everyone to know about the Chinese government’s direct meddling in Australian elections. The Chinese government has also tried to introduce its own loyalists as candidates. Among them include a former Chinese senator in Western Australia, Dio Wang, who even publicly endorsed the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
At the same time, Western politicians have also come under influence, including former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who shed tears for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but later changed his attitude towards the Chinese government after doing business with China for economic benefits.
Incentives are not only limited to financial benefits, but also sexual favours. One case happened to a former senior federal minister. Before he became a minister, he once travelled to China with other members of the Parliament. In China, they fell into a “trap” set up by the Party officials. After returning, they all spoke in favour of the Chinese Communist Party.
Interference in academic freedom through Confucius Institutes
Confucius Institutes number many throughout the world. A professor at the University of New South Wales once told me that the system was “very tightly controlled”. He wanted to adopt traditional Chinese teaching materials from Taiwan, but was forbidden, as under the Confucius Institute, only Mainland Chinese teaching materials were permitted.
The Confucius Institute is controlled by the Ministry of Education, a Chinese government sector. The 2012 Confucius Institute financial report revealed its funding to amount to an incredible 1.2 billion Chinese Yuan.
According to its 2016 report, out of the 1,587 Confucius Institutes and classrooms around the world, 1,237 are located in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It begs the question, why is the Chinese government investing so much of its funds to further the “education” of developed countries?
When put into perspective, it is really quite baffling. Last year, a woman named Yang Gailan, who could not support her four children in their education, tragically killed all of them and then took her own life. Tragedies of this sort are commonplace in China. Poverty is rife, the wealth gap is enormous, yet the government fails to adequately support its own citizens with quality education and other basic services. Instead, they pour funds into infiltrating Western institutions to further their agenda and grip on the West in the guise of “educating” people on Chinese culture.
Xiaogang Zhang is a freelance writer, human rights activist, senior member and former Vice-Chairman of Federation for a Democratic China and former Secretary-General of Independent Chinese PEN Centre.