While we have been shocked by the poisoning in Salisbury of a Russian ex-double agent and his daughter, much more flagrant abuses of sovereignty are reportedly happening on the other side of the globe.
According to a disturbing book, Silent Invasion by Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Chinese communist subversion almost toppled the Australian government a few months ago.
‘Down under’ last Christmas, I watched coverage of a crucial by-election in the Sydney seat of Bennelong on Sky News Australia. It was precarious for the governing Liberal Party led by Malcolm Turnbull: loss of the seat would wipe out their tiny majority in parliament.
The by-election was called after MP John Alexander was alleged to have dual citizenship, which would have invalidated his position. He contested the attempt to destroy his career and overturn the Liberal administration. The Labor Party put up their most appealing candidate, Kristina Keneally, but despite the hype Alexander held on. However, Sky News Australia omitted a major part of the story, and only now, on reading The Silent Invasion, have I realised the full implications of the poll.
For many years the seat of popular premier John Howard, Bennelong is an affluent area on the northern shore of Sydney, normally a Liberal stronghold. But the demography is shifting. Rich Chinese are steadily replacing colonial-style homes with larger concrete-and-glass edifices, and whereas second-generation Chinese are well-integrated, newer arrivals mostly converse in Mandarin. Beijing strives to control the diaspora, and the largest donations to both major Australian political parties are from Chinese bodies. In Bennelong, Hamilton tells how the Chinese Communist Party wanted to punish the government for its foreign interference law, which sought to enhance existing espionage laws and introduce new offences targeting foreign interference and economic espionage, portraying this as anti-Chinese racism. After intensive mobilisation of Chinese votes by United Front, a CCP-funded organisation that puts George Soros’s Common Purpose in the shade, the swing to Labor was more than 10 per cent in areas of high Oriental influx.
Hamilton describes how Beijing responded to the fall of Soviet communism. While revering Mao, the CCP has shifted from universal Marxism to promote Chinese (more specifically, Han) nationalism. The Patriotic Education Campaign teaches schoolchildren that their country was humiliated by the colonial powers and the USA and Japan, but it is now rising from victim to victor. This brainwashing serves not only internal control but infiltration and censorship abroad. Adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that practises the dangerous art of meditation, are persistently harassed, and Hamilton says the same applies to reporters and distributors of Epoch Times, an international newspaper which exposes human rights abuse in China.
Stalking of expat dissidents is facilitated by digital technology. Activity on Facebook (a website blocked in China) is monitored, but it doesn’t stop there. Western governments have shown unbelievable lack of caution in giving contracts to Chinese firms for sensitive work such as surveillance systems. Advanced internet-linked CCTV cameras with face-tracking capacity in use on the London Underground and Gatwick Airport are supplied by Hangzhou Hikvision, a company under Chinese state control. Potentially the data may be sent to Chinese servers, allowing agents to track people wherever they go, recording them visiting church or holding a copy of Epoch Times.
Thus the long arm of Chinese law extends far beyond national borders. As quoted by Hamilton: ‘A fugitive is like a kite: the body is overseas but the thread is within China.’ He says Triad gangs are sometimes paid to do dirty work. The Ministry of State Security brazenly sends agents to intimidate critics, and engages in extra-state kidnapping. Anyone refusing to play ball may be threatened with persecution of family members. Three weeks ago the New York Times reported the case of Zhuang Liehang, who fled to America in 2014 after he had been in trouble for organising protests against official land grabs in his seaside village of Wukan. He received a call at his New York apartment from a jail where his father was held: ‘Stop what you are doing. It will be bad for your family’. Zhuang took this to mean his father would be harmed, but he continued to post on Facebook. This led to several more calls before they ominously ceased.
Undoubtedly, to return to China is risky. State prosecutions rarely result in acquittal, and political crime is difficult to disprove. Convicted thought criminals are reportedly targeted for organ harvesting for wealthy patients. Queensland has stopped training Chinese surgeons in tranplant techniques owing to ethical concerns about how they will use their skills. China is believed to account for half of the global capital punishment tally (about a thousand annually), but records are not divulged.
Hamilton says that in Australia the CCP preys on naïve liberal elites so keen on celebrating multiculturalism that they are blind to the nefarious agenda. Australian politicians shun Chinese opponents of the Communist regime, steering clear of controversy and liaising only with ‘community leaders’ supportive of Beijing.
Inevitably Hamilton has been accused of racism. But he writes warmly of Chinese Australians and their contribution to society, while those middle-class intellectuals who defend Beijing effectively deny the civil rights and liberties of fellow citizens. Like the established Chinese community, Hamilton is concerned by the politicised newcomers, and the state that exploits them in pursuit of global supremacy. Meanwhile, having had difficulty getting his book published, Hamilton suggests: ‘Academics in Australia might reflect on the fact that scholarly books critical of the CCP are now shunned by publishers.’