A Chinese-Australian political donor has been named in the Australian Parliament as a co-conspirator in a U.S. bribery case involving former president of the United Nations General Assembly John Ashe.
In a speech before the federal Parliament on Tuesday, May 22, Andrew Hastie MP, who is heading the intelligence and security committee, used parliamentary privilege to disclose that Chinese property developer Chau Chak Wing was an individual referred to in the bribery case first identified by U.S. authorities in 2015.
Hastie furthermore noted that Chau had “extensive contacts in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the United Front.”
The Liberal MP said he recently met with United States officials to talk about espionage and foreign interference legislation. During his visit, Hastie said his American counterparts identified Chau as “co-conspirator 3” or “CC-3,” and revealed that he was allegedly involved in a bribery plot where several conspirators paid Ashe more than $1 million in luxury goods and cash from sources in China in exchange for help with business deals.
As a result, Ashe and others, including another Chinese-Australian Sheri Yan, the wife of former high-ranking Australian intelligence official, Roger Uren, were arrested on bribery charges in 2015. The former UN president died before he could be prosecuted in 2016, in an apparent weightlifting accident, according to a family statement.
On Tuesday night, Hastie tabled a New York court document in Parliament, which alleged CC-3 was the source behind $200,000 given to Ashe in 2013 to attend a conference in China. He also tabled a U.S. government diplomatic cable from 2007 that identifies Chau, also known by his Mandarin name of Zhou Zerong, as the leader of a business group that is “essentially a creature of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front program,” Hastie said. The United Front is a department of the CCP that runs influence operations overseas.
The Liberal MP explained to Parliament that Chau is a well-connected political donor in Australia, giving more than $4 million to both major political parties since 2004. He has also donated about $45 million to Australian universities.
Hastie accused Chau of attempting to silence Australian media from “telling the truth,” in reference to the defamation cases that Chau has brought against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax.
“The Australian press has reported these matters and others and have been sued for defamation by CC-3. CC-3 disputes a number of the reported allegations,” Hastie said.
He added that he was concerned that the defamation cases can have a chilling effect on the media.
“Any attempt to silence our media from telling the truth—provided it is the truth—through a defamation claim cannot stand.”
In his speech, Hastie also accused the CCP of interfering in Australian politics and public debates.
“In Australia, it is clear that the Chinese Communist Party is working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities, and also influence our political processes and public debates.”
Chau has consistently disputed the allegations made against him.
His lawyers at Mark O’Brien Legal, who will represent Chau in a defamation case against Fairfax Media that will go to trial on June 12, told The Epoch Times: “Our client is very disappointed that an elected representative would use the cover of parliamentary privilege to repeat old claims and attack his reputation just weeks before some of these matters are tested in court.”
His legal team also said that Chau “is confident of being vindicated” after the defamation case hearing takes place.
Hastie said that although the FBI alleged that Chau was involved in the bribery of John Ashe, the United States government had previously not charged Chau for reasons “that are best undisclosed.”
But Hastie added that it was important for him to raise the matter because the matter “poses a threat to our democratic tradition, particularly the freedom of the press, and our national sovereignty.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament during a session on May 23 that he received no forewarning that Hastie was going to make the speech in Parliament on Tuesday, adding that the allegations were not new.
“They are in fact the subject of litigation currently in the Australian courts and for that reason, I don’t propose to say any more about them,” he said.
Turnbull also confirmed that he had consulted Australian intelligence agencies for advice on the implications on Hastie’s speech.
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“The conflicts between two different values systems, and the conflicts between the two political systems are issues that cannot be ignored.”