Leaked Communist party documents from 2017 show that the Chinese government ‘red-flagged’ 23 Australian citizens in its crackdown which led to the detention of more than a million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities, according to a report by The Guardian.
This comes after Australian authorities said they were investigating an alleged Chinese plot to install a spy MP in the Canberra Parliament.
The documents, often referred to as the ‘China Cables’, reportedly show that Beijing told officials to subject a group of 75 people to identity verification, including 23 Australians, who were inside China at the time.
These people, thought to be dual-citizens, were to either be deported or detained.
A set of highly classified official documents, recently leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists provide rare insight into the internal workings of the infamous mass detention camps in Xinjiang, which hold hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities.
The documents contain detailed instructions on matters such as preventing escapes, maintaining secrecy about the camps and forced indoctrination among other things.
The documents also reportedly reveal that 1,535 Xinjiang natives with second passports and 4,341 who had “obtained identity documents” in Chinese embassies had been identified by the government.
Of these, 75 dual-nationals, thought to be active inside China, were red flagged.
Apart from 23 Australians, they include 26 Turkish nationals, two UK citizens, two New Zealanders, five Canadians, three Americans and few others from countries including Sweden, Finland, France, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, according to The Guardian.
Those who were found to have renounced their Chinese citizenship were to be deported. For the rest, who could be suspected of terrorism, “they should first be placed into concentrated education and training and examined,” the bulletin reportedly said.
Read more about the documents here.
The Parliamentarian Spy
The alleged plot came to light after a self-proclaimed former Chinese spy suggested on the news show ‘60 Minutes’ that Beijing officials offered a million Australian dollars to a member of the Liberal Party to fund his election efforts.
The politician in question was a Chinese-Australian called Nick Zhao, who worked as a luxury car dealer. He was reportedly found dead in a hotel room in Melbourne in March this year.
If proven true, this would mean the Chinese government officially made an attempt to install a puppet in the Australian parliament, thereby undermining its sovereignty.
In a rare public statement, Mike Bugress, the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), reassured Australians that his organisation was previously aware of the alleged plot, and has been actively investigating the matter, according to BBC.
Tense Relations Between China and Australia
China and Australia have had an uncomfortable relationship, and these new developments are bound to strain relations further.
In July this year, Australia witnessed clashes between pro-Hong Kong demonstrators and pro-Beijing groups, who instigated the physical confrontations by ripping posters from the hands of opponents, the BBC reported.
The same month, Australia joined 21 other nations in condemning China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs as well as its mistreatment of other minority groups in the United Nations.
Australia, in August, became one of the first nations to ban Huawei and ZTE from providing 5G technology amid fears that the companies are subservient to the Chinese government and may assist it in intelligence gathering.
What complicates matters is that even though Australia is ideologically aligned with the west, China has been its biggest trading partner since 2010, partly due to proximity, and is the source of an ever-increasing number of tourists and overseas students.
China has also rapidly become the most influential power in the South China Sea and Australia can’t afford to ignore it.
(With inputs from The Guardian and the BBC.)