In the latest step in its campaign to limit Chinese influence, the Australian government barred a wealthy Chinese businessman and political donor from re-entering the country. Huang Xiangmo has given millions to all of Australia’s major parties as part of a campaign to build support for Beijing.
While the decidedly frosty diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing have thawed in recent months, this decision reinforces underlying tensions. The Australian government is deeply concerned about what it says is China’s effort to gain influence in the country’s politics, in its universities and among the large numbers of ethnic Chinese. Beijing labels those charges a relic of the cold war and bristles with nationalistic indignation.
Huang Xiangmo moved to Sydney in 2011, founded the Yuhu Development Group and became a leader of a number of groups associated with the United Front Work Department – an arm of the Chinese Communist Party. The groups include the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China.
He financed a think tank, the Australia-China Relations Institute, and he was deeply involved in the scandal that brought down Sam Dastyari, a rising star of the Labor Party who allowed the Yuhu group to pay some of his bills, and gave a speech supporting China’s position in the South China Sea with Mr. Huang at his side.
Dastyari also lobbied government minsters to grant Huang’s application for citizenship. Instead, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the government rejected that application and stripped Huang’s status as a permanent resident. Since he is currently overseas, that means he’s stranded: he cannot re-enter the country. What now happens with his 13-million dollar mansion in Sydney, his assets and his family is not clear.