State MP’s China connections
Several former Liberal members for State Parliament and the former President of the Upper House Bruce Atkinson are coming under scrutiny for their involvement with suspected Chinese operatives and agents.
Questions are being raised as details are being reviewed around former State MPs’ relationships with China, including personal relations and involvement with several events and organisations with links to the Chinese Government. New information is being uncovered on the back of previously revealed connections between Chinese businessmen and fronts giving donations and making arrangements with Liberal MPs.
Most investigations and media reports have been around Federal MPs, but new information is coming to light about Chinese pressure, rewards and connections with State MPs.
While former MPs publicised their attendance at Chinese New Year, the yearly Moon festival and other Chinese cultural events, liaisons with a Chinese business association and more particularly a Chinese social services centre in the Eastern suburbs have led to some serious questions about MPs’ possible interactions and relationships with agents from China.
According to expert information, it is very difficult to discern whether a meeting or arrangement is purely that, or whether other strings are attached. Several deep level investigations have already begun which are bound to have serious repercussions as Chinese operations have begun to unravel within Australia. Serious issues around influencers are also emerging, including those that concern money trails which are complex and may take some time to come together.
It is well known that one State MP remains involved with the Chinese United Front and World Trade United Foundation (WTUF). One line of investigation is around a person of interest with Chinese connections close to Song Yumin. Another highly concerning situation under review in relation to possible connections to the Chinese Embassy is a person of significant interest only known as Karin. A confidential briefing has also highlighted some other activities of former MPs in relation to China and their expressions of support toward the Chinese government.
A recent expert report has laid out several areas and activities Chinese agents and operatives are thought to have engaged in, including joining or recruiting prominent members of organisations in order to obtain communications information, financial records and other confidential data; investing into organisations, schemes or activities in order to leverage influence; joining influencer organisations like major political parties, industry bodies, lobby groups and large community and not for profit organisations in order to influence the direction of those bodies, most typically by financial incentives, “honeypots” (i.e. female companions to some figures) and providing other support mechanisms; and identifying ex-patriot Chinese (and Asian) people and Australian citizens who express negative opinions against China.
Senior leaders of the Liberal Party have been aware of Chinese attempts to connect to federal MPs, and are becoming increasingly aware that not inconsiderable attempts have been made by China to connect with State MPs in the past decade.
Intelligence officials have warned of honeypot operations which involve Chinese females posing as potential partners for high level Liberal members and MPs. One expert explained that relationships can be by seduction or by longer term connections, including where the unwitting person marries the agent and becomes a possible source of information for China or malleable to their control in their daily lives.
Several past known instances of infiltration of this sort have been highly embarrassing and deeply troubling for participants involved.
In the case of money and soft influence, most details are kept under wraps, but several high profile cases have come to light since 2019. As a result of changes to Australian law in 2020, investigators have new powers and have been able to bring charges against several Chinese operatives and agents with a clearer picture forming of the extent of China’s activities around Melbourne.
The security services primarily look at Chinese activities, but the media has brought to public attention the extent to which members of parliament can be compromised. Several senior Liberals are understood to be concerned about the new revelations.
It is understood that several senior State Liberals are embroiled in these claims, though investigations are still early, and there has been some speculation former State MPs have decided to remain silent on these matters as the investigations may cut deep into the already much divided Victorian branch.