Turnbull told to ‘discard prejudice’ as China denies interfering in domestic affairs

07-Dec-2017 Intellasia | The Guardian | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Foreign ministry says Australia should ‘act more in a way that will be conducive to boosting the China-Australia relationship’

China has declared it does not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries and Beijing has urged the Turnbull government to “discard prejudice” and deepen the bilateral relationship rather than pursue measures aimed at shoring up Australia from the risks of foreign interference.

The sharp comments from a foreign ministry spokesman come in response to the Turnbull government’s decision to press ahead with a crackdown on foreign interference, with the introduction of legislation aiming to counter incidences of espionage and improper foreign influence within Australia’s political system.

In telegraphing the imminent introduction of new legislation, the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said on Tuesday the reforms were not directed at any one country, noting foreign interference was a global issue.

Coalition to ban foreign donations to political parties and activist groups

But Turnbull also referenced “disturbing reports about Chinese influence” and moved quickly from a policy discussion to a political assault on Labour’s strife-torn senator Sam Dastyari, who remains in hot water over his dealings with the Sydney-based Chinese businessperson Huang Xiangmo.

Turnbull declared the threat of foreign interference in Australia’s political system “real” and he said the legislation the government proposed, which also bans foreign donations to political parties and activist groups, would “reinforce the strengths of our open democratic system while shoring up vulnerabilities”.

But the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman was clearly not pleased with developments in Canberra.

Asked about the legislative package, the spokesman replied: “China develops its friendly relations with other countries on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.

“China does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs. We urge the relevant people in Australia to discard prejudice and speak and act more in a way that will be conducive to boosting the China-Australia relationship and deepening cooperation between them.”

The spokesman said that a “sound and steady” China-Australia relationship served the common interests of both sides.

The attorney general, George Brandis, said on Tuesday the crackdown was in response to advice from Australian intelligence agencies. Agencies had warned the government the Australian political system was vulnerable to influence and infiltration by foreign actors.

Brandis said the government’s proposal to require former politicians, lobbyists and executives working for foreign interests to register if they sought to influence politics in Australia would likely include people such as the former New South Wales premier and federal foreign affairs minister Bob Carr, who is currently a director of the Australia-China Relations Institute.

Brandis said the new arrangement would also likely apply to the former trade minister Andrew Robb in his new role as a lobbyist for a Chinese firm.

Carr responded sharply. In a statement, he said the operational costs for his China thinktank were “fully funded by the university” and he said the organisation had produced academic work of a high standard, with 70 percent commissioned from academics at other Australian universities.

“On the other hand, there are thinktanks the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the United States Studies Centre, for example that express consistently pro-American positions that receive funding from US corporations, including armaments companies,” Carr said.

“I have not hesitated to make criticisms of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and urge China’s adherence to international law.

“I have praised the deceased Nobel laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo. I have discussed the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and denounced plans for Mao commemoration concerts in Australia.”

Carr declared Brandis was attempting “to create a distraction after their party’s own vigorous fundraising from a Chinese donor had been brought to light”.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/05/turnbull-told-to-discard-prejudice-as-china-denies-interfering-in-domestic-affairs

 


Category: China

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