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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Billionaire Chinese political donor Huang Xiangmo is stripped of Australian residency (Times)

"A Chinese billionaire who was resident in Australia for eight years and donated millions to political parties has been denied the right to return to the country amid concerns about Beijing’s spying and influence peddling.

The cancellation of Huang Xiangmo’s residency status in Australia is the first action taken by Canberra against a suspected Chinese Communist Party member since new restrictions were introduced last year. They came after an investigation that suggested Beijing was trying to infiltrate Australia’s political establishment by promoting candidates linked to the Communist Party, and an alleged cyber-spying offensive targeting Australian companies and their commercial secrets.

He is abroad at present, and the move to strip Mr Huang of his right to live in Australia, means that he is unable to return to his £7 million Sydney harbourside mansion. His application to become a citizen and obtain an Australian passport has reportedly been turned down.

The action against Mr Huang, who made a fortune in property and energy in China before migrating to Australia with his wife and children in 2011, is likely to worsen the strained relations between Canberra and Beijing that followed the introduction of the counter-interference laws.

Australia’s Home Affairs Department is understood to have denied Mr Huang a passport for a range of reasons, including concerns about the reliability of his answers to its domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIO).

Mr Huang, a prolific political donor, fund-raiser and networker funded an influential Sydney think tank, the Australia-China Relations Institute, headed by Australia’s former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr.

As president of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, he had access to top politicians from both sides and has previously dared political parties to refund his at least £1.5 million in donations. He had a direct line to advisers or fund-raisers for Tony Abbott, the former conservative prime minister, and other government MPs.

In late 2017 Mr Huang was at the centre of a political influence scandal that ended the career of Sam Dastyari, one of the Labor Party’s rising stars in the national parliament.

Mr Huang invited Mr Dastyari to a Chinese-language press conference in Sydney at which Mr Dastyari contradicted his party’s opposition to Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea. That, along with the revelation that Mr Dastyari had tipped off Mr Huang that his phone was being tapped by Australia’s spy agencies, ended his political career.

In 2015 and 2016 Australia’s domestic spy agency privately warned both leading political parties that Mr Huang’s donations may be entwined with his ties to the Chinese Communist Party."

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