The Australian government is pushing back against Beijing’s overseas propaganda operations.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has warned that foreign journalists in Australia will face scrutiny from federal agencies if they provide a “slanted view to a particular community.”
“If people are here as journalists and they’re reporting fairly on the news, then that’s fine,” Dutton told ABC’s Insiders program on Sept. 13.
“If people are masquerading as journalists or business leaders or whoever they might be, and there’s evidence that they are acting in a contrary nature to Australian law, then ASIO and the Australian Federal Police and other agencies will act,” he added.
His comments come after revelations emerged on Sept. 10 that two Chinese academics were barred re-entry into Australia, with four journalists leaving the country, following investigations by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) over foreign interference concerns.
Tao Shelan, one of the Chinese nationals implicated in the raids, is the Australian bureau chief of China News Service—Beijing’s second-largest state-run media outlet following Xinhua.
China News Service is one of nine Beijing-backed media organisations that the U.S. State Department has designated a foreign mission, meaning they are deemed to be “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a country.
The ruling by the U.S. State Department ultimately removes any notion that China News Service is an independent entity.
The service is controlled by the United Front Work Department (UFWD), the Chinese communist regime’s leading overseas infiltration organ. The UFWD gained notoriety with its connection to the downfall of former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.
China News Service acts as the media arm of the UFWD and plays an integral role in building partnerships with overseas media outlets to offer free content, which includes pre-approved material from Beijing.
Currently, it supports over 200 Chinese-language publications globally. In Australia, it runs the Pacific Media Group out of Melbourne.
Leaders from China News Service and UFWD also headlined the biennial Global Chinese Language Media Forum. The Epoch Times revealed that the conference is a major event, attended by CCP heavyweights looking to mix and mingle with hundreds of media proprietors and senior managers from around the world.
Tao has attended the forums twice. In 2019, she was part of a 37-strong delegation from Australia.
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge warned on Aug. 28 that foreign actors were seeking to “grow division” in Australia and “sow distrust” in the government and institutions.
Tudge was particularly concerned about the reach of foreign actors in multicultural communities and warned that “malign information or propaganda” could be spreading through ethnic media, including outlets “controlled or funded” by state players.
Community members with poor English-language skills were considered highly vulnerable.