Chinese Defectors Reveal Chinese Strategy and Agents in Australia
by Richard Bullivant
Background: Australia’s Role in China’s Regional Anti-U.S. Strategy
In February 2005, Zhou Wenzhong, the Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, held a top level meeting in the PRC Embassy in Australia attended by the Ambassador and consul-generals to Australia and New Zealand.
The main purpose of the meeting was to implement the decision made at the 10th Meeting of the Chinese Diplomats in Foreign Countries held in mid-August 2004.
At the meeting Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, outlined a work programme designed to make Australia part of China’s “Great Border Area” or “Grand Border Strategy” for obtaining both Australia’s natural resources and its political compromise.
Each participant was asked for suggestions to implement the next step — the CCP strategic plan for Australia to break the military ties between Australia and the United States and turn Australia into “a second France … that dares to say ‘no’ to the United States”. 1
The Chen Yonglin Defection
On 26 May 2005, Chen Yonglin, the former First Secretary and Chinese Consul for Political Affairs in Sydney, emerged from hiding after his escape from the Chinese consulate office in Sydney and applied for political asylum at the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) in Sydney. He met with a wall of obstruction, primarily from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
At a meeting in Sydney on 31 May, he was advised by the DFAT Trade Protocol Officer in charge of Diplomatic and Consular Accreditation that he should return to the Chinese consulate in Sydney. Yonglin knew he would be returned to China and executed. He was told that his application had been rejected by Foreign Affairs Minister Downer, on “foreign affairs grounds”.
Yonglin was alarmed since he had provided DIMIA with his mobile phone number and specifically asked them not to phone the Chinese Consulate He was contacted almost immediately by the Consul for Visa Affairs (head of the visa section) from the Chinese consulate and was especially alarmed since he had very recently obtained a new pre-paid mobile phone account and a new phone number. Fearing kidnapping, a favored Chinese intelligence tactic, he returned into hiding with his wife and six-year old daughter.
On June 4, hoping the safety of his wife and six-year-old daughter would be strengthened by extensive publicity, and in the hope he would receive official protection from the Australian Government, he gave numerous interviews to electronic and print media in which he asserted there were a “thousand” Chinese spies operating in Australia. His claim was later verified by two former Chinese security officials who were aware of the scope of Chinese intelligence operations in Australia.
On July 8, he finally received a permanent protection visa from the Australian Government. He testified before the U.S. Senate on 21 July 2005, and before the Australian Senate on 26 July 2005. 2
The Curious Role of ASIO: Benign or Malign Neglect?
On 26 February 2005, former Chinese Security officer Hao Feng Jun left a tour group and on 28 February lodged a visa to stay in Australia. He had down-loaded, at great personal risk from his computer, what his lawyer described as “a 256-megabyte memory stick that contains a treasure trove of secret and confidential documents”. 3
For four months, Feng Jun had no response from ASIO or any other government agency. He decided to publicise his background and was finally interviewed by ASIO in the last week of July 2005. Many agents and contacts were identified, in internal documents in his possession, by number only. Such coded agents may take years to identify and some may never be identified. Clearly ASIO would have had many inquiries to conduct.
Yonglin finally met with ASIO in the first week of July 2005 after a two-month waiting period. ASIO was aware of his predicament, as an ASIO representative had attended the Inter-departmental Committee (IDC) meeting, held in Canberra on 8 June 2005, to discuss Yonglin’s status. 4
Australian Politicians: Chinese Agents of Influence
Yonglin states that some Australian politicians have been encouraged into supporting Chinese policies: “The consulate’s senior officials will host dinners for them or meet them on some occasions and ask them to help on the issue of dissidents.”
Yonglin also states that he has sighted a list of names of NSW prominent people who could be relied upon to help out — a list that included local councillors and state parliamentarians. They were called upon to help when Falun Gong members wanted to participate in publicly-funded celebrations. He also states: 5
“When I was working for the Chinese consulate, if I wanted to investigate someone, it was as easy as turning one’s palm — the consulate would just obtain information from informers. We only needed to give them a call, and they would tell us what we wanted to know. Some informers would even disclose the secrets of people around them over the phone; some would report in writing, although real smart ones would talk in person.”
The Role of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
The Chinese intelligence service’s most valued asset in Australia is DFAT and their opaque network of former diplomats, intelligence analysts, academics, Australia-Chinese consultants, all of whom reflect subtle but unremitting pro-Chinese and anti-U.S. sentiment.
Pro-Chinese, Anti-U.S. Sentiment in DFAT
According to Yonglin: 6
“Over the past several years, Chinese officials have successfully built close personal relationships with their Australia counterparts [a reference to Chinese officials’ personal contacts with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade], all for the purpose of establishing leverage in the Australian Government. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is convinced that the Australian Government can be coerced to follow its aims through application of economic pressures and incentives. It plans to use economic pressure to force Australia to cave on political and human rights issues.
The dialogue on human rights between China and Australia over the past several years was merely a show put on to appease the Australian public. In fact, there was no progress made. When high-ranking Australian officials visited China, they did not raise any human right issues. I knew what was said during their visits, because a summary news brief of each visit was sent to the consulate.”
Dr. Geoff Raby and DFAT’s Intervention
A key DFAT official referred to by Yonglin was Dr. Geoff Raby. Raby was well placed to “give advice to the Chinese Government on sensitive political issues”. He served at the Australian Embassy in Beijing for five years and worked at the Office of National Assessments (ONA) from 1984 to 1986, and is an ex officio member of the Australia-China Council. 7
Raby represents Australia (DFAT) in bilateral discussions on human rights issues which he insists are more productive if discussed in secrecy with the Chinese Government. He has been a leading figure in Australia-China free trade negotiations.
Raby’s intervention on behalf of the Chinese Government — which would have been approved at the highest levels of DFAT — centred on the lawsuit lodged in the New South Wales Supreme Court by an Australian citizen and Falun Gong practitioner against the Chinese President and the notorious secret police organisation targeting Falun Gong, the 6-10 Office, for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity.
According to Yonglin, the Chinese Government was greatly embarrassed by the prospect of open court proceedings and regularly pressured DFAT and specifically: 8
“To help the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade provided several solutions. Dr. Geoff Raby, Deputy Secretary [of DFAT], promised the Chinese Government when he visited China in March, 2005, that he would ask for the materials from the Supreme Court, cancel the lawsuit by the Falun gong practitioners and put an end to the charges laid against the Chinese leader …
The Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade offered another solution: to have the Chinese Government send a representative to stand trial in place of the leader, and thus expedite the lawsuit. The Chinese government did not adopt this suggestion and instead decided to put pressure on the ministry, which resulted in the ministry’s cooperation in preparing many legal documents to assist the CCP”
Yonglin was asked in a television interview to comment on his claim that he read further coded reports on senior foreign affairs official Dr. Geoff Raby, offering the Chinese the Department’s [DFAT’s] assistance with the case. When asked, “Your understanding was that Dr. Raby suggested that, or offered to do it? Is that right?”, Yonglin replied, “He [ Raby] offered to do that. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was very happy to hear that it’s a success in our job.” 9
Yonglin, at his media conference on 22 June, even criticised the Foreign Minister Mr. Alexander Downer for allegedly helping the Chinese Government: 10
“Due to the nature of my work as a diplomat, I have witnessed many instances of secret dealing between the Chinese and Australian governments, and such knowledge has weighed heavily on my conscience. I know that the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Canberra share all of their information with each other. The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs even gives suggestions to the Chinese Government on how to handle difficult political cases.”
DFAT Sabotage the Defection of a Chinese Cipher Clerk
Would-be Chinese defectors to Australia must be especially courageous and committed as their lives are in the dubious hands of DFAT officials. Many Chinese officers, including Chen Yonglin, were briefed on the fate of a highly valued intelligence asset to Australia and the United States, a Chinese cipher clerk whose defection was neutralised by DFAT
The cipher clerk and his wife had attempted to escape from the Chinese consulate and were recaptured by officials, and handed over to Chinese Embassy officials at Melbourne airport on the basis of Chinese assurances to DFAT concerning his future safety. The implication was clear to would- be defectors. Given the pro- Chinese bias, no DFAT officer could be trusted.
DFAT and the Wang Jian Ping Case
According to his written submission to the Australian Senate, Wang Jian Ping worked for ASIO against the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) and assisted ASIO in Australia for five years and bluntly stated the threat posed to defectors by DFAT: 11
“I believe that my long-standing views about the Chinese Central Committee and the manner in which the Chinese Government is working against its own people has not been received well by [DFAT] … I feel a deep unease about the Department of Foreign Affairs and would not recommend that any defector provide information to that Department.”
Australia: a Febrile U.S. Ally?
The Chinese Government has correctly assessed Australia as a soft target for influence and intelligence operations, which mesh with its regional and global ambitions to counter and replace U.S. regional influence and “detach” Australia from the U.S. alliance through economic and political influence and leverage. Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer — himself a former DFAT officer — internalised the DFAT pro-China policy and has even refined the Labor Party’s pro-Chinese policies evidenced by his recent ambiguous remarks concerning Australian aid to Taiwan in the event of a crisis.
As early as 1999, the Treasurer, Mr. Peter Costello, was reportedly privately contemptuous of President Bush’s description of Australia as the U.S.’s “deputy sheriff” in the region. 12
During the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in 1999, Peter Costello reportedly informed Richard Armitage (later to serve as President Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State) that “it could not assumed that Australia would automatically follow Australia into a war with China”. 13 Costello is not familiar with the principles of deterrence and, as a parochial politician, he regards international relations as domestic politics by other means.
The critical question increasingly facing the United States is: Will Australia support the Chinese drive for hegemony in the region or meet its treaty obligations with the United States? The Chinese Intelligence Services plan that, through perceptions management operations, influence operations in the media, universities recruiting consultants, intelligence officials, politicians and diplomats, Australia will slowly but steadily develop, in the words of Chinese strategists, as “a second France”. In reaching this strategic objective, the Chinese are exploiting their greatest asset in Australia — the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
1. Details of meeting: Chen Yonglin, The Epoch Times (Melbourne), 24 June 2005.
2. Chen Yonglin, personal testimony before Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, 26 July 2005, pages 44–65. Yonglin’s account of his relations with the Australian Government agencies received extensive media publicity, but his testimony to the Australian Senate is the most detailed personal account. See also Chen Yonglin, testimony before the United States Congress Committee on International Relations, 21 July 2005, pages 1–12.
3. John Allen, The Epoch Times, 2 August 2005.
4. Testimony of Miss Jenny Russ, Manager, Economic and Special Operations, Australian Federal Police, before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Senate: Proof Committee Hansard, 26 July 2005, page 1. The IDC was attended by representatives of DFAT, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, DIMIA and ASIO
5. Liang Yu, The Epoch Times, 24 July 2005.
6. Chen Yonglin, media conference, reported in The Epoch Times, 24 June 2005.
7. Biographical details, Dr Geoff Raby, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: DFAT note.
See also Chen Yonglin’s allegations in Richard Szabo, The Epoch Times, 30 June 2005.
Raby is cited (TheAustralian, 28 June 2005): “Dr. Raby defended the secrecy of the human rights dialogue”, and said that “the secrecy of the provisions was one of the aspects that enables us to make as much progress as we do”.
8. Chen Yonglin, The Epoch Times, 25 June 2005.
9. Chen Yonglin, “Behind Chinese walls”, transcript of Channel Nine’s Sunday programme, 17 July 2005, pages 6–7.
10. Chen Yonglin in The Epoch Times, 24 June 2005.
11. Wang Jian Ping, written submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s Inquiry into Asylum and Protection Visas for Consular Officials, 26 July 2005, pages 21–25. The quotation in the text is from page 25.
12. Cynthia Banham, “The World According to Costello”, The Diplomat (Sydney), Vol.4, No.3, August/September 2005, page 9.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard Bullivant is a former intelligence officer at the Office of National Assessments.
National Observer No. 66 - Spring 2005