(TibetanReview.net, Apr22, 2014) – Through student bodies set up and funded by it, China has established a vast network of spies in Australia’s leading universities to monitor and restrict the activities of the more than 90,000 students there who are from the mainland, reported smh.com.au Apr 21. The country’s autocratic rulers remain concerned that these students are potentially exposed to ideas and activities not readily available at home. It also targets other ethnic Chinese as well as groups like Tibetans who oppose its occupation rule in their homeland.
The report noted that in one case, security officials ordered parents in China to constrain the activities of their son, after informants reported he had seen the Dalai Lama in Australia.
”I was interrogated four times in China,” a senior lecturer at a high-ranking Australian university was quoted as saying in another case. He has said he was questioned by China’s main spy agency over comments he had made at a seminar about democracy at the University of NSW.
”They showed me the report,” he was quoted as saying. ”I can even name the lady who sent the report.”
The report also noted that Chinese intelligence officials had confirmed to the Fairfax Media that they were building informant networks to monitor Australia’s ethnic Chinese community to protect Beijing’s ”core interests”.
”They have more resources in Sydney University than we do,” an Australian official was quoted as saying, referring to the amount China spends and the number of spies it has posted.
The report said that at the overt level, education counsellors in diplomatic missions organise Chinese-born students into associations through which they can provide support services. However, apart from providing support services, these Chinese government-led student associations are also used to gather intelligence and promote core political objectives in parallel with other informant networks handled through the political sections of diplomatic missions, the report cited Chinese officials, Australian officials and members of Australia’s Chinese community as saying.
The report cited Chen Yonglin, a Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005, as saying that Chinese diplomats set up Chinese student associations at each university, appointed their leaders, and ensured they were well funded. ”The students are useful for welcoming leaders at airports and blocking protest groups from sight, and also collecting information,” he was quoted as saying.
Separately, he has said, Chinese state security officials in and outside diplomatic missions ran student agents ”to infiltrate dissident groups especially [relating to] Tibet and Falun Gong”.
The report also quoted Jocelyn Chey, a former senior diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong and who is now a fellow at the Institute of International Affairs and visiting professor at the University of Sydney, as saying: ”It’s quite clear that a large part of the business of Chinese diplomatic missions here is just keeping tabs on their citizens.’