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Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo slams 'lies' and 'prejudice' behind stripping of his Australian residency over political links

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 8/2/2019 Sarah Zheng
a man wearing a suit and tie: Huang Xiangmo said on Friday his donations had been lawful and he had stopped them in July 2016. Photo: Handout © Handout Huang Xiangmo said on Friday his donations had been lawful and he had stopped them in July 2016. Photo: Handout

Chinese property tycoon Huang Xiangmo, whose permanent residency in Australia has been cancelled by officials there, said on Friday that scrutiny of his prolific political donations in Australia and positions at pro-Beijing organisations was “prejudiced and groundless”.

In his first statement since his residency was revoked, Huang proposed that Australian politicians return his donations to instead be given to charity, and argued the organisations he headed were in line with Canberra’s political stances on China.

“It is profoundly disappointing to be treated in such a grotesquely unfair manner,” he said, calling the accusations against him “baseless allegations and sheer lies”.

“The decision of visa cancellation was made based on unfounded speculations that are prejudiced and groundless. This is not the Australia that I believe in – the Australia of freedom, democracy, rule of law and fairness – but I keep my faith in law and justice.”

Huang said he was now living a “peaceful and happy life” in Hong Kong – where he is believed to have permanent residency – and was focusing on his investments in the city and others in Thailand, the United States and Britain.

Hong Kong Companies Registry records show Huang was once a director of China Resources Recycle Investment Ltd and Pan Tian Investment Company Ltd, both of which were dissolved.

Philip Ruddock, Malcolm Turnbull posing for a photo: Huang Xiangmo with Australia’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2016. Photo: ACPPRC © ACPPRC Huang Xiangmo with Australia’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2016. Photo: ACPPRC

As one of Australia’s top political donors, Huang maintained close ties with many politicians, including funding a Sydney think tank headed by former foreign minister Bob Carr.

His political involvement also led to the high-profile downfall of former Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who had his personal legal bills paid by Huang and later appeared at a press conference alongside Huang to echo support for Beijing’s position in the South China Sea, contradicting Labor’s policy.

The Huang case has highlighted growing suspicion in Australia of Communist Party influence on its domestic politics. Sweeping laws on foreign interference in Australian politics were passed last year.

Huang said on Friday that his donations had been lawful and made at the request of the recipient parties, adding that he had stopped all political donations as of July 1, 2016.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the country’s main spy agency, ordered the cancellation of Huang’s residency because it found he was “amenable to conducting acts of foreign interference” and in the past had shown a “willingness” to do so, the Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday.

In particular, the ASIO cited Huang’s financial and family connections in his native China, and leadership positions in Chinese organisations with suspected links to Beijing.

Huang’s long-delayed application for Australian citizenship was also denied, including on “character grounds”, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Chinese billionaire is the chairman of the Oceanic Alliance of Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (OAPPRC) and former chairman of the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC), both of which advocate the peaceful unification of mainland China and the self-ruled island of Taiwan.

Those groups have been cited by scholars as being part of the United Front Work Department, an arm of the Chinese government that seeks to promote Chinese foreign policy objectives abroad through the Chinese diaspora.

But Huang said in his Friday statement that both groups followed the Australian government’s political position regarding the one-China policy that recognises Beijing’s position on Taiwan.

“If I am penalised for promoting the peaceful reunification of China, such penalty is against Australia’s own diplomatic position and international commitment as well as Australia’s fundamental principles of cultural diversity and freedom of speech,” he said.

“OAPPRC and ACPPRC are neither affiliated with nor funded by any foreign governments. No Australian government agency, including ASIO, has ever raised any objections in this regard.”

Huang said his connections in China were “common and normal” in the age of globalisation. “It will be outright ridiculous to suspect that they are therefore amenable to being manipulated by a certain foreign government,” he said.

Huang said he no longer held any position or shares at the company he founded in Australia after migrating there in 2011, Yuhu Group Australia, which confirmed he was no longer involved.

With his wife and son still living in his Sydney mansion, Huang said he “will visit Australia at the appropriate time with the suitable identification”.

Additional reporting by Kinling Lo

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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