Fri, Sep 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Difficult times for Australia-China

By Sushil Seth

“It is important, and we expect, that basic standards of justice and procedural fairness are met,” Payne said.

“I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr Yang is being held for his political beliefs [advocacy of democracy], he should be released,” she said.

Beijing’s response to this was sharp and swift, with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) saying: “China deplores the Australian foreign minister’s statement on this case.”

“Australia should respect China’s sovereignty and stop interfering in China’s case handling,” Geng said, adding that China was a country with the rule of law.

The relationship has further been complicated by a host of side issues, which might not officially involve China, but nonetheless seek to interfere with Australia’s politics.

For instance, the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo (黃向墨), who allegedly delivered A$100,000 (US$68,100) in cash as political donation to the opposition Labor Party.

This has, of course, thrown the Labor Party into chaos.

The billionaire had earlier attracted the attention of Australian security agencies, which revoked his Australian residency and banned him from entering Australia.

There are also concerns in the education sector, prompting Australian Minister for Education Dan Tehan to announce a new foreign interference task force to tackle concerns about undue influence, cybersecurity and sensitive research collaborations.

The guidelines to be developed by the taskforce would mean the “sector can benchmark themselves” in cooperation with security and intelligence agencies, Tehan said.

It is hoped that the guidelines would be in place by November.

With China keen to put Australia into line with its hegemonic ambitions, and Canberra resisting and seeking to maintain its position as the US’ primary strategic partner, one can foresee difficult times ahead.

Sushil Seth is a commentator based in Australia.

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