Australian gov’t to investigate universities alleged ties with China

The Australian government has announced a full investigation into its universities‘ “secret links“ to China. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — The Australian government has announced a full investigation into its universities‘ alleged “secret links“ to China.

The move comes after an investigation by an Australian newspaper last week revealed that dozens of the country’s top scientists had been recruited for what the FBI described as an “economic espionage” that threatened national security.

The revelations have fueled fears that Australian research has been misused to advance China’s military and even develop weapons, according to news.com.au.

Various reports also indicated that academics who sign up for the research programs typically allegedly receive salaries of up to US$150,000 among other benefits. They must also agree to patent their inventions in China and comply with Chinese law.

Reports reveal that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton wrote a letter to Andrew Hastie, chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), on Sunday, outlining the government’s concerns about China’s “secret links” to Australian universities.

Australian former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton sits in the back left seat in Parliament in Canberra, Australia, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. Dutton moved from the front row where Cabinet ministers sit to the back row after his bid to become prime minister failed on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

Dutton called on the JCIS to investigate eventual links between the universities and China and other foreign governments, citing an earlier report from Hastie claiming that Australian research and intellectual property had been “plundered by the CCP”.

The inquiry will not only look into whether or not research is being provided against Australia’s national interests, but also examine whether foreign actors threaten free speech at universities, following the University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou’s ban from campus in May for “alleged misconduct” after a peaceful sit-in he arranged was attacked by around 200 Communist supporters.

View of the St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

In the letter, Dutton said he wished “to refer to the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security the matter of potential interference conducted by, or on behalf of, foreign actors, in Australian universities, publicly funded research agencies and competitive research grants agencies.”