Australia cancels residency of CCP-linked billionaire

AFP, SYDNEY

Thu, Feb 07, 2019 - Page 1

A prominent Chinese billionaire political donor has been stripped of his Australian residency and barred from returning to the country after scrutiny of his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ties, media reported yesterday.

Huang Xiangmo (黃向墨) was reportedly left stranded outside of Australia after the Australian Department of Home Affairs canceled his permanent residency and rejected his application for citizenship.

The prominent property developer has donated millions to Australia’s two main political parties and been photographed with key figures, including former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten.

However, he has come under scrutiny for alleged links to the United Front Work Department — a CCP-linked body accused of neutralizing opposition and buying political influence around the world.

Asked about Huang’s case, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would not comment on such “sensitive matters,” but added that “the government has always acted consistent with the advice that we’ve received and that’s what has happened on this occasion.”

Quoting unnamed sources, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said that Huang had his application for an Australian passport blocked on “character grounds” and concerns over the “reliability” of information he had supplied in interviews.

The Home Office declined requests for comment on the case.

Meanwhile, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne played down suggestions that the decision to strip Huang of his residency could poison relations between Canberra and Beijing.

The two nations’ economies are deeply intertwined, but conflicting political systems and China’s increasingly strong-arm tactics in the Pacific region have made cooperation more difficult.

“I don’t expect it to be the subject of a bilateral discussion. These are matters that occur from time to time,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp when asked about the Huang case.

Australia’s main spy agency has long voiced concerns that China was interfering in Australian institutions and using the opaque political donations system to gain access.

It reportedly warned the nation’s political elite about taking donations from Huang — who owns a multimillion-dollar mansion in Sydney — and a fellow billionaire property developer, Chau Chak Wing (周澤榮).

In 2017, one-time opposition Labor powerbroker Sam Dastyari was forced to quit politics when it emerged his office took cash from Huang to pay legal bills.

The Sydney Morning Herald said that Dastyari had repeatedly contacted immigration personally to check on Huang’s case.

Shorten — who polls tip to become Australia’s next prime minister — yesterday dodged questions about whether his party would return donations from Huang.

“Well, we stopped taking money from him a couple of years ago,” he told reporters.

“In fact, Labor stopped taking donations from that gentleman and another person before the law caught up with our position,” he said.