MP’s men­tor has links to CCP

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - AN­DREW BUR­RELL

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.

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