It was recently revealed that Beijing tried to install a pro-China politician in Australia’s Federal parliament. Thirty-two-year-old luxury car dealer Nick Zhao from Melbourne was approached by a Chinese agent who offered him a million dollars in exchange for his loyalty to Beijing. Zhao informed the Australian spy agency ASIO about the contact and was soon found dead in a hotel room. The man who is suspected to have contacted Zhao and offered the money has business links with the Chinese military.
Links with China
During his disclosure with ASIO, Zhao identified the man who approached him as Melbourne businessman Brian Chen. Though Chen has denied having any knowledge of Zhao, authorities have confirmed that both individuals have been in contact with each other prior to Zhao’s death. Chen is the Chief Executive of Prospect Time International Investment, a company that promotes China’s Belt and Road Initiative. A subsidiary of Prospect Time is Special Vehicles and Equipment Company that has a 50 percent stake in a Chinese firm called “Beijing Northern Li Mao Long Defence and Security Technology Company.”
“That company produces bullet-proof transport trucks, public security guard cars, and other special vehicles that are certified by China’s Ministry of Public Security — the main security arm of the Chinese Communist Party. The other half of that company is owned by Beijing North Vehicle Group Corporation (Norveco), an affiliate of Norinco, China’s major state-owned defense corporation. Norinco is one of the largest defense corporations in the world and was one of 10 companies that participated in China’s military parade in October,” according to The Age.
Media reports suggest that Chen might be a senior Chinese intelligence operative. He has been consistently seen wearing a Chinese military uniform when attending international summits. Between 2004 and 2009, Prospect Time’s co-director was a businessman named Wang Zhenhai, who has ties with the Communist Party’s United Work Front. Chen has made significant donations to both the major political parties in Australia and has connections with senior political figures in Europe and Asia. Australian intelligence officials are now investigating Chen’s business activities, as well as his networks across the world.
In a recent speech at the Australian parliament, Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie attacked both major political parties for not doing enough to counter the threat of Chinese interference in domestic affairs. “It’s about time the people in this place woke up to China’s attempts to infiltrate our economy and our democracy… Both sides of politics need to take a good hard look at themselves and make sure they’re acting in our national interest, which quite obviously, over China, they are not… We’re sitting ducks here,” she said in the parliament (ABC News).
Lambie asked the parties to support Senator Rex Patrick’s call for setting up an inquiry to assess Australia’s relationship with China. The motion for the inquiry failed to pass the parliament, gaining only 15 votes in support and 38 votes against it. None of the senators of the two major political parties voiced support for the motion.
Lambie pointed out that the parties were selling off Australia’s democratic values in exchange for some quick bucks, highlighting the US$120 billion and US$32 billion that Australia makes every year from the sale of raw materials (iron ore and coal) and university fees of incoming Chinese students. Lambie asked that Australia decouple itself from China and look at alternative markets.