MP’s mentor has links to CCP
Labor MP Pierre Yang’s political mentor, Perth businessman Edward Zhang, has extensive links to Beijing’s secretive United Front Work Department and has praised the Chinese Communist Party for leading the “great rejuvenation” of his homeland.
Dr Zhang, 58, is believed to be the most senior figure in Perth’s Chinese community with links to the United Front, a body seeking to expand China’s influence in the West.
In his inaugural speech to the West Australian parliament last year, Mr Yang, 35, described Dr Zhang as “like an uncle to me”.
“He advised me, encouraged me and supported me on my journey to become a parliamentarian,” Mr Yang said. “I am privileged to have known Dr Zhang.”
The Australian revealed this week that Mr Yang, the McGowan government’s upper-house whip, was a member of two United Front-linked bodies but he failed to declare these memberships on his parliamentary interests register.
He resigned from the Northeast China Federation Inc and the Association of Great China, and said he should have declared them.
Dr Zhang is the president of both organisations.
The federation’s chief aim is to promote Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative in Australia, and the association has backed China’s actions in “safeguarding the sovereignty” of the South China Sea.
Dr Zhang is also the honorary chairman of the WA branch of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, the most prominent CCP-linked body in Australia.
The council, previously headed nationally by Chinese billionaire and political donor Huang Xiangmo, has been at the centre of the debate over China’s rising influence in Australia.
According to Chinese-language media reports, Dr Zhang made a speech at the 2011 inauguration of the WA branch in which he praised the CCP for “leading the people to create a happy and prosperous life and hastening the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
The website of the council’s WA branch names Mr Yang as an executive member, but the MP denied this week he had ever joined the group.
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, was concerned about the revelations. “There are hundreds of Beijing’s agents throughout Australian politics, universities, public service and business,” he said.
It emerged this week that Mr Yang was deployed on a Chinese government vessel in 2016 searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that security experts suspect had spied on the Australian military.
Mr Yang said he volunteered as an army reservist to serve on the Chinese ship after his commander asked for someone who could speak Mandarin to take part in the international search.
He was “deeply hurt” at suggestions he was not loyal to Australia.