A victory against China’s influence and interference in Australia
On the evening of 21st April 2021, the Australian Government announced it was tearing up the two belt and road initiative agreements that the Victorian Government had signed with China. This is a victory for groups like Australia Tibet Council that have long campaigned on the issue of China’s interference and influence in Australian internal affairs.
For many years, one of Australia Tibet Council’s key campaigns has been on the issue of China’s malevolent interference and influence in Australia.
The Tibetan community and ATC have seen this influence firsthand. For example in 2013 China’s Confucius Institutes played a role in cancelling a talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Sydney University.
ATC is active on the issue of China’s interference and influence and has made sustained calls for effective legislation on this issue, ATC specifically called for the scrapping of Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement with China, and the end to Confucius Institutes in Australian Universities and Schools.
Getting China’s interference and influence in Australia addressed has been part of every lobby trip ATC has undertaken to Canberra. We have had many conversations with politicians and public servants about this issue and gained considerable support.
Last year our campaign saw the Australian Government introduce new, tougher foreign interference laws specifically aimed at State and Local Government and Public Universities. This new legislation allows the Australian Government to have greater scrutiny and control over agreements made by States, Local Government and Public Universities.
This law is called “Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act”. So far, they have examined over 1000 agreements between states and foreign governments.
However, the Chinese Communist Party has more influence and interference tools at its disposal including Confucius Institutes and joint agreements between Australian Universities and Chinese Universities.
Universities have been resistant to having their agreements examined and have actively avoided scrutiny of their Confucius Institute agreements. Universities continue to resist and have called the legislation an “overreach” and “extraordinarily wide”. It is therefore important to keep up the pressure.
ATC will continue to put scrutiny on China’s influence and interference in Australia. We will not back away from our call for Confucius Institutes to be closed. We continue to call on the government to examine all Confucius Institute agreements in Australia.
But Confucius Institutes are not the only area of China’s interference and influence in Australian Universities, there are many research agreements. Australian research with China has been abused in the past and areas such as AI and Facial Recognition technologies are already being used to further impinge on the human rights of Tibetans and other groups in China. ATC therefore continues to call on the Australian government to rigorously examine all agreements between Australian Universities and their Chinese counterparts.
Sustained political advocacy is the only way that ATC can counter the Chinese government’s undue influence in Australia. Our concerns with Australian Universities is the censorship of important human rights discussions around the ongoing occupation and repression of Tibet and other areas where human rights abuses occur in China.
Without your support we could not have won this victory, but we still have a lot to do in our campaign on China’s influence and interference in Australia.
ATC needs your support for our political advocacy to make sure the Chinese government does not set the human rights agenda in Australia.