The Chinese Community Group, the Consulate and the Labor Prime Minister

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He also said he would censor any content that Beijing disapproves of in his Chinese-language newspaper, the Australian Chinese Times, including criticism of the government, separatist language, and references to Falun Gong and the Taiwanese independence movement.

Zhang is a founding member and honorary chairman of the WA branch of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, a group linked to the United Front. The United Front operates networks abroad that mobilize support for the Chinese Communist Party.

Its Sydney president, billionaire political donor Huang Xiangmo, was banned from returning to Australia in 2019 on the advice of intelligence officers.

Chen, the second representative on the board, has been vice president or president of WA’s largest and oldest Chinese association, Chung Wah, since 2017.

The association’s transition to a pro-Beijing organization was ushered in by former President Richard Tan after years of internal hostilities that sidelined second-generation Australian-Chinese members.

Tan said he forged an intimate relationship between the organization and the Chinese consulate and helped a group of mainlanders seize power under murky circumstances in 2015, when Chen was secretary.

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Tan said there was no official affiliation with United Front, but many people had ties to groups in the network, including himself. Chen founded the Fujian Association of WA – an operation linked to the United Front – with his colleague Ding Shaoping. Chen then took over from Ding as chairman of Chung Wah.

“The ties to the United Front are something so obvious, or it has been so obvious in the past,” Tan said. “It’s just that Australian politicians knowingly ignored it, or pretend they don’t know.”

In 2016, Chung Wah signed a statement defending China’s actions in the South China Sea, where she argued contested land claims at the United Nations. “The Chinese nation is a nation that values ​​peace since ancient times, but if anyone plots wrongdoing, we will fully support the motherland in a just struggle,” the statement said.

“China wants to expand its influence. It’s something so obvious it’s benign, ”Tan said. “It’s not like China is going to take Australia or anything.”

A former senior Liberal Party official who worked with the association wondered if his leadership was too close to the Chinese consulate and the consul general.

“With the tensions between China and Australia, I am worried if things get worse these [may not be] good representatives of the Chinese community in Australia, ”said the liberal figure, who asked to remain anonymous in order to be able to speak freely.

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He said the association found it difficult to resist pressure from the consulate, which often underpinned their functions, prompted them to organize events and linked them to United Front groups.

The Consulate and Chung Wah co-hosted the Chinese New Year’s Ball last year with Liberal and Labor MPs and a gala in 2019 commemorating the 190th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese migrants to Western Australia.

Chinese Consul General in Perth, Dong Zhihua, Chen, Zhang and McGowan had dinner together last year, photos released by the consulate show.

Chen denied any connection between the consulate and Chung Wah. “They have no influence at all,” he said.

He said the work of the government committee focused on promoting multicultural harmony, not international affairs.

“My job is to protect the best interests of the Chinese to avoid racism and discrimination in Australia,” he said.

Chen praised McGowan for his “very good comments” on the state of Sino-Australian relations. He said Australia “will benefit from a stable China” and Prime Minister Scott Morrison “should focus more on domestic issues than international issues”.

A spokesperson for the WA government said China accounted for 56% of the state’s exports in 2020. “Federal discussions over trade disputes and retaliation can and must end,” she said. . “It is in our security and economic interest to do so. “

Federal Labor is also targeting the economic impact of Beijing’s $ 20 billion trade strikes after months of relative bipartisanship over national security and human rights conflicts.

Labor Party spokeswoman Madeleine King said McGowan “was clearly expressing his frustration at what he saw as a failure to run a very important economic relationship.”

Chung Wah received a $ 5 million grant from the Western Australian government late last year, equivalent to its entire annual budget. McGowan personally awarded the grant to Riverton’s key seat ahead of the March state election, which he won in a landslide.

The association is audited by CPL, a company run by the Perth-based family of Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the standing committee of the Beijing National People’s Congress. Tam was sanctioned by the United States after he drafted national security laws that jailed more than 100 pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong and crushed public opposition in Beijing.

Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan announcing the grant to the Chung Wah Association with Ting Chen, left.Credit:Chung Wah Association

A McGowan government spokeswoman said he supports Chung Wah as he represents all sections of the state’s Chinese communities, which include migrants from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.

Chen said the only comments he had received about Hong Kong from community members were that they “supported the Hong Kong government instead of the pro-democracy movement” and that “some Hong Kong people were crooks. which put the Chinese in Australia in a very difficult position ”.

Asked about Xinjiang, where as many as 1 million Uyghurs belonging to a Muslim minority have been detained by Chinese authorities, Chen said he had seen no evidence of human rights violations and that “no one had raised the issue with him “.

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