An Australian man who helped organize the launch of a controversial book about China was denied entry to the country.
John Hugh flew from Sydney to Shanghai on March 20 with his 80-year-old mother, intending to visit China for several days before continuing to Canada, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
But Hugh said he was immediately taken off the flight when it landed in Shanghai and placed on an 11-hour return flight to Australia.
His mother was allowed to enter China without him and is now staying with relatives.
Hugh, who was born in China, said he wasn’t given a specific reason for being denied entry but that a border inspection guard said, “You should know why.”
He said the whole ordeal lasted barely more than an hour before he was flying back to Australia. “They were very efficient,” he said.
Hugh recently helped with the Australian launch of the book “Silent Invasion: Chinese Influence in Australia.” The book by Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, details the Chinese Communist Party’s infiltration of Australian political parties and institutions. Hugh was quoted in the book as criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to limit dissent in both China and Australia.
Hugh was previously allowed entry to China when he visited in 2014, though he faced questioning from Chinese officials in Sydney first. He said he believes that this time the book launch “may have been the final straw.”
“I think it’s maybe revenge,” he said.
John Hugh, a Chinese-born Australian who is critical of Beijing, was sent back to Sydney soon after landing in Shanghai on Tuesday night https://t.co/6q0vL83F8o
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) March 21, 2018
Hugh is also a former city councilor from Parramatta in western Sydney. He says his support for a new bill that aims to regulate foreign influence in Australia may have also played a role in his rejection from entering his home country. Hugh moved to Australia from China in 1990.
Rory Medcalf of The Lowy Institute said that Hamilton’s book is “essential reading for those in many countries concerned for their national security and the integrity of their institutions.”
“As a morally charged voice from the civil libertarian left, Hamilton punctures the lazy myth that concern about China is limited to conservatives or national security types on a ‘China threat roll’ who for some reason feel the need to conjure up new trouble (as if terrorism was not enough to keep them worried, funded and busy),” he wrote.
“Hamilton has done Australia a long-term service,” he added. “The book’s forthrightness is resounding internationally. Many countries have looked to Australia to understand how to uncover and curb covert, corrupt, and coercive forms of foreign influence and interference.”
Medcalf and Hamilton have a planned conversation about the book scheduled for April 4 at the Australian National University.