MP Musters Support for Inquiry into Beijing’s Influence at Australian Universities

August 25, 2020 Updated: August 25, 2020

Queensland MP Bob Katter wants Australians to urge their MPs to support a parliamentary inquiry into Chinese Communist Party’s influence at universities before it goes to a vote in the House of Representatives.

“The motion I will move on August 31 calls on the Government to undertake a comprehensive study of the efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to exert influence over Australia’s universities and means by which it seeks to do so,” Katter said in a media release.

The member for Kennedy cited revelations in a report by News Corp’s The Australian about three academics from the University of Queensland who were, or had been, allegedly involved in the Chinese regime’s Thousand Talents recruitment program. The Australian reported the university was unaware of the links to the recruitment program.

Katter said: “The allegations that these Australian-based scientists are potentially being recruited for research with a military application and even to develop weapons, is of the highest concern, and there needs to be a complete cleanout of the university sector.”

Beijing’s talent program was rolled out in 2008 to recruit promising science and tech researchers from foreign countries to work in China—for the ultimate goal of fulfilling its ambition for global tech dominance.

“Those efforts are sometimes described by official sources as ‘building nests to attract phoenixes’,” writes Alex Joske in a report for the Australian Strategic Policy Insitute.

The problem, he writes, is the lack of transparency around the Chinese regime’s recruitment efforts and the level of misconduct which includes intellectual property theft or espionage; how it feeds into the People’s Liberation Army’s modernisation; and how it facilitates human rights abuses.

Joske writes: “Much of the misconduct associated with talent-recruitment programs breaches existing laws, contracts and institutional policies. The fact that it nonetheless occurs at high levels points to a failure of compliance and enforcement mechanisms across research institutions and relevant government agencies.”

Australia’s national spy agency, ASIO, reportedly made universities aware of the risks of foreign recruitment programs, including tech transfer, and urged them to strengthen their disclosure regimes, according to The Australian.

Australia ties second with Germany, after the United States, in the ASPI’s list of the top 10 countries hosting identified talent recruitment stations.

Watch Next

“How Beijing Infiltrates the West”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the title of Mr. Katter.  The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson