New Inquiry Into Beijing Influence in Universities

Australia's Parliament building in Canberra (Photo: AFP)



New parliament inquiry will examine whether knowledge and technology are being transferred to foreign powers against Australia’s national interest.



The parliament is set to probe alleged foreign interference at public universities, a government minister said Monday, as concerns grow about Chinese influence.

Home Affairs Minister Hon. Peter Dutton on Sunday wrote to the chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, Hon. Andrew Hastie, to outline the terms of reference of the inquiry into foreign interference in the university sector, The Australian reported.

Hon. Dutton suggested that the parliamentary joint committee should focus on the investigation of the foreign interference, "by or on behalf of foreign actors". The probe should include Australian universities, publicly funded research agencies and competitive research grants agencies.

“Special focus should be given to options that reduce technological and knowledge transfer from Australia that may be detrimental to our national interests, while not undermining international productive research collaboration," Hon. Dutton emphasised.

Hon. Hastie and Senator James Paterson urged for a parliamentary probe. Andrew Hastie and I are continuing to push for a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference at Australian universities, wrote Hon. Paterson on his Facebook page.

A proposed inquiry by the security and intelligence committee follows a series of controversies over Communist China's clout on the campuses, ranging from hacks of university data to questionable financial donations and intimidation of Beijing's critics.

Concerns have also been raised about the nature of research links between academics and scientists in the two countries.

Mr Alan Tudge, the minister for population and cities, told Australia's Sky News the mooted inquiry was the latest government attempt to tackle spiralling foreign interference now at "levels not seen since World War II".

The move comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that it was seeking new powers to scrap deals between local authorities and foreign countries that threaten the national interest - sweeping powers that would extend to universities.

It also comes less than a year after Australia announced new guidelines for universities for research collaboration, cybersecurity, and international partnerships.

Mr Tudge said the inquiry would "go further" than previous probes into alleged foreign interference.

"We need to be assured and the public need to be assured that there isn't that foreign interference in our universities sector," he said.


The Probe Aimed At Beijing Influence

The authorities took the same communication strategy on this issue like in the case of mechanism that would allow Canberra to stop state's and University deals, which threaten Australia's national interest - the goal of the probe is foreign interference.

The majority of voters understand that the government is targeting Beijing in particular. In recent months the investigative journalists and researchers reformed in the series of documentaries how some Australian universities missed opportunity to stop the transfer of modern technology. Often Chinese "professors" or researchers stole the newest know-how, including the facial recognition technology, to Communist China. Later Beijing used it against Uighur and broadly its population.

The university guidelines announced in November push public institutions to enhance cybersecurity systems, undertake due diligence before signing partnerships with overseas organisations, and train staff to recognise foreign influence attempts.

Last year, Hon. Hastie in his article "We must see China with clear eyes", that started serious actions against the Beijing regime influence in Australia, emphasised that the vision of Beijing and Australia are contradictory. Communist China has been pushing Marxism-Leninism, which intends to destroy the Western style of life, as opposed to Australia view of shared prosperity, under the free market and democracy.

We must be intellectually honest, and take the Chinese leadership at its word. We are dealing with a fundamentally different vision for the world, Hon. Hastie observed in the article.

Academics have been urged to be wary of sharing knowledge on sensitive topics and discern how joint research with international scholars could potentially be misused.

Schools and government officials also committed to more intensive consultation to protect Australia's national interests.

Beijing has repeatedly denied interfering in Australian campus life.




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