John Hugh, a Chinese-born Australian man, was denied entry to China on March 20 when traveling to Shanghai with his 80-year-old mother to scatter his father’s ashes. Although his mother, also an Australian citizen, was allowed to continue the trip, he was put on the next flight back to Sydney. Damien Cave of the New York Times writes:
“I asked what the reason was and they just said, ‘You should know,'” he said.
Mr. Hugh, a former city councilor from Parramatta in western Sydney, surmised that he had been refused entry as punishment for his support for a new espionage bill intended to regulate foreign influence in Australia, and for his connection to a new book about the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to infiltrate Australian politics, business and academia.
[…] “It’s retaliation for what we’ve done—for not cooperating with them, for being an independent voice,” he said on Wednesday. [Source]
Hugh is founder of the Australian Values Alliance, a group dedicated to “democracy, rule of laws [sic], freedom, equality, tolerance and human rights.” In 2016, the group successfully petitioned against proposals for concerts commemorating the 40th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death. In an interview with Linda Mottram of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation following his deportation, Hugh criticized Chinese influence: “I openly oppose the proposed extradition treaty to be signed between Australia and China, and I have doubt and fear they may abuse that treaty to punish people if we do and say things they don’t like in Australia.”
The book with which Hugh has a connection is Clive Hamilton’s provocatively-titled Silent Invasion. After it was dropped by its first publisher last year for fear of pressure from Beijing, Hugh attended its launch last month, and was also featured in the book. In his review, Rory Metcalf of The Interpreter says:
Silent Invasion will be essential reading for those in many countries concerned for their national security and the integrity of their institutions. Worth attention is the way the book illuminates the motives and secretive methods of the United Front Work Department. This organ of the Chinese Communist Party is now a familiar name in Australian public debate, so all this sunlight is getting us somewhere. [Source]
[T]he book has helped inflame tensions between Canberra and Beijing. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra said of Silent Invasion earlier this month, “The author of the book has been recklessly playing up ‘China threat’ for quite some time, trying to defame and smear China by all means. His allegations, which are imbued with disinformation and racist bigotry, fully reveal his malicious anti-China mentality.” [Source]
Hugh’s deportation occurs during a time of rising mainstream Australian opposition to Chinese government influence. Last week, the messaging app WeChat was banned from Australian defense staff’s phones, over fears of covert monitoring. In 2017, the Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull proposed legislation to limit foreign contributions to political parties, taking particular aim at China. Referring to Mao’s 1949 slogan that “The Chinese people have stood up” （中国人站起来了), Turnbull encouraged Australians to do the same.