Helen Liu rebuts spy allegations

‘BROKEN-HEARTED’:: The businesswoman is a member of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, the ‘Australian’ reported

AFP, WITH STAFF WRITER , SYDNEY

Wed, Apr 01, 2009 - Page 5

A Chinese-Australian businesswoman at the center of a spy scandal has denied that she is a security threat, saying in an interview published yesterday that she was “broken-hearted” at the suggestion.

Beijing-born Helen Liu (劉海燕), whose links to Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon sparked a political row now dogging Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a visit to London, said she was a good citizen of her adopted country.

“I feel very broken-hearted about Australia,” Liu said in her first interview since the scandal broke last week.

In a phone call from her home province of Shandong, the 48-year-old with limited English told the Herald-Sun through a friend: “I am an Australian citizen and I participate in all activities, not just political. I am a very good Australian businesswoman. It is unfair to me, what people have said.”

Liu broke her silence after an initial leak about her friendship with Fitzgibbon snowballed into a row over the government’s close ties with Beijing and so-called secret visits by top Chinese officials.

Fitzgibbon was forced to admit he had failed to declare on a parliamentary register that he had two free trips to China sponsored by Liu when he was a member of the opposition.

He said it was an innocent mistake and the national spy agency announced that it had no security concerns about Liu.

But the opposition called for Fitzgibbon to be sacked and launched an assault on the government’s close relations with Beijing.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Chinese-speaking Sinophile, was accused of acting like a “roving ambassador” for Beijing by pressing for China to be given a bigger role in the IMF.

Then, newspapers discovered that two senior Chinese government officials had traveled to Australia for talks with Rudd without local reporters being informed of the meetings.

The visits by security and intelligence chief Zhou Yongkang (周永康) last year and propaganda chief Li Changchun (李長春) last week were covered by Chinese media, yet no information was provided locally, the papers said.

The scandal has followed Rudd on a visit to London for the G20 summit this week, forcing him to defend his close ties with Beijing.

The Australian newspaper reported yesterday that Liu is a leading member of the editorial committee of Shandong Ming Jia, an organization that promotes the work of leading people from Shandong Province and has extensive membership within the People’s Liberation Army, especially its logistics division.

She is also vice chairwoman of the Hong-Kong-based World Federation of Overseas Chinese Associations, which is linked to the Overseas Affairs office of the United Front Ministry of the State Council, the paper said. One of the goals of that organization is to work toward the “reunification” of China and Taiwan.

Liu is also a member of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, the paper said.