Tasmanian Buddhist and Community Leader Denies Links to Chinese Regime

October 3, 2018 Updated: October 3, 2018

The president of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China has said that allegations of the organisation’s links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are “baseless and false.”

“We have no affiliation with, nor are we instructed by, the Chinese Communist Party or any party, for that matter,” said President Xin De Wang in response to concerns that the organisation has been exerting CCP influence in Tasmania.

But Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, believes otherwise.

As part of his research on CCP interference in Tasmania, Hamilton commissioned translations of local Chinese language broadcasts, including one by Wang on Hobart FM 96.1 on Dec. 11, 2016, The Australian reported.

During the program, Wang shared his beliefs in his native Mandarin that the role of his CCP-backed Buddhist organisation was to “hold the latest policies enacted by the motherland as guidance for everything we do.”

He continued, “We will hold the teaching of the Great Holy Sakyamuni Buddha as guidance for everything we do. And we will do our utmost to requite the firm embrace of the motherland.” Wang declined to comment on his remarks when approached by The Australian.

Hamilton believes that Wang’s role as the head of the Tasmanian branch of the ACPPRC is directly connected to the Chinese regime’s efforts to extend its influence using soft power, this time using “red Buddhism”—where Chinese Buddhism is remoulded to suit communist ideology.

Based in Sydney, the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC) has been criticised as a front group for the CCP. Until recent times, the ACPPRC was headed by CCP-linked political donor Huang Xiangmo. Huang is on record telling a Communist Party newspaper that “political demands and political donations” should be linked.

According to Hamilton, ACPPRC has ties to the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification—an agency in the third bureau of the CCP’s United Front Work Department that is tasked with carrying out influence operations among overseas ethnic Chinese communities (PDF). The United Front has been a key apparatus for CCP propaganda warfare since the time of Mao Zedong (PDF) and continues to have staff stationed in Chinese embassies around the world.

The University of Tasmania Sandy Bay campus hosted Clive Hamilton on Oct. 2 as he introduced his book “Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia” that documents the CCP’s efforts to extend its political and cultural influence in Australia.

Hamilton said after studying the CCP’s influence operations on the mainland, he could see evidence of the same methods being used to influence politics in Tasmania.

Public concern arose when the $100 million east coast resort development, Cambria Green—announced in April this year—got the green light for its application for a special development zone that would consist of 550 units and hotel rooms, two golf courses, and an 80-bed health spa, The Guardian reported.

The Cambria Green is helmed by Liu Kejing, a Shandong businessman, and Melbourne-based Ronald Hu. Hu posted on Facebook that they want to “bring the surrounding community along [sic] our long-term journey” to support “integrated, eco-tourism development.”

But according to The Guardian, the lack of transparency and zero public consultation around the Cambria Green development meant that news of the development was not well received.

Hamilton said he was not encouraging opposition to ethnic Chinese investing in Australia. “Of course plenty of Chinese investment in Tasmania is fine. It’s legal, it’s legitimate, it contributes to Tasmania’s development.”

He said that his concerns about China-backed investments were regarding the subordinate position of all Chinese business entities in the political system of China’s ruling CCP.

“Every major Chinese company, including privately owned ones, has a branch of the Chinese Communist Party within the company, and it’s not just a formality,” Hamilton said.

“The secretary of that branch can overrule the CEO of the company if instructed to do so from Beijing.”

He said that local Australian governments need to be carrying out serious due diligence on China-based companies to “decide whether they are fit and proper investors for this state.”

In his public statement, Wang also addressed the public’s concern regarding Chinese entities investing in Tasmania.

“If Chinese investors show interest in Tasmania’s future and are willing to invest and help … then we encourage it,” Wang said of the Tasmanian ACPPRC branch, “provided it complies with federal, state, and local law and policies, and is in the best interests of Tasmania and the Tasmanian people.”

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