A Melbourne-based Chinese businessman is fighting deportation after allegedly being assessed as a national security risk by Australian intelligence services.
Liu “Haha” Huifeng, an ex-soldier of the People’s Liberation Army—China’s military—was denied permanent residency on character grounds in September after concerns were allegedly raised by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the acting immigration minister.
The Federal Court of Australia has granted Liu a stay on his deportation, allowing him to challenge the decision.
“I’ve done nothing wrong or against Australian law,” Liu told the ABC at his Melbourne home.
“The decision to revoke my visa was extremely unfair,” he said.
Liu was applying for residency via the Significant Investor Visa scheme, dubbed the “Golden Ticket,” which streamlines migration for applicants willing to invest AU$5 million into an approved fund or scheme.
The attempt to oust Liu from the country follows moves last year by ASIO denying two Chinese academics re-entry into Australia over fears they were engaged in foreign interference.
Liu himself has been an active member of the local business community, donating $100,000 of disinfectant to Latrobe Regional Hospital in April, and has lived in Australia since 2014.
According to an ABC investigation, sources close to Liu allege ASIO began investigating him in 2016.
In the same year, he became president of the Australian Emergency Assistance Association Incorporated (AEAAI), a non-profit organisation that aids multicultural community members in emergencies.
In a move that split the AEAAI, Liu entered the group into an agreement with the Chinese consulate in Melbourne in 2017, agreeing to take instruction, report incidents, and provide “security risk information” to the mission.
The signed “Letter of Intent” also stipulated that the Chinese consulate fund AEAAI’s activities. The AEAAI set up a separate entity to receive the funds, according to internal documents.
One committee member of the group accused Liu of acting against his own instructions: “He’s saying white, but he is doing black.”
“‘Haha’ has been telling everyone, especially the committee members, never take a political line, never choose your side, stay away from politics,” the member said. “But it seems like he’s maintaining a very good relationship with the Chinese Embassy and some local politicians.”
Liu maintained close ties and collaborated with federal Liberal politicians Gladys Liu (no relation) and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar. Gladys Liu worked with Liu to address street crime and even helped him with translation at political events.
“Outside of this we have no relationship, I have never received any financial support from Mr Liu,” the member of Parliament said in a statement released in response to the revelations.
“I will never support a person or organisation that does not have Australia’s best interests at heart,” she added.
Liu was an avid networker seen photographed with former prime ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull, as well as current federal leaders Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
In 2015-16, Liu donated $20,000 to the Victorian Liberal branch.
Albanese said the prime minister needed to take the allegations seriously and accused Assistant Treasurer Sukkar of being a “rolling problem” for the government. Last year Sukkar was alleged to have benefited from branch stacking in his electorate.
“Scott Morrison has done nothing about it—absolutely nothing, and he remains as the assistant treasurer, and these allegations should be investigated properly,” Albanese told reporters on Monday.
Last year, ASIO and AFP began a series of high-profile investigations into individuals accused of perpetrating foreign interference.
In June, New South Wales (NSW) state politician Shaoquett Moselmane’s home and office were subjected to a dramatic morning raid by both agencies.
Moselmane later claimed he was cleared during the investigation and was reinstated into the NSW Labor Party.
His political adviser John Zhang, who was also subject to the same investigation, has yet to be cleared.
Government security officials allegedly found evidence during the investigation that Zhang had meetings with Beijing’s United Front Work Department, the communist regime’s leading foreign influence and infiltration body, and also uncovered $60,000 of cash at his residence.
These investigations have occurred under the authority of the 2018 foreign interference laws, which were rushed through Parliament by then-Prime Minister Turnbull in response to continuing reports of Chinese Communist Party-connected foreign interference activities in Australia.
In November, 65-year-old Melbourne man Duong Di Sanh became the first person officially charged under the laws.