The Chinese community will increasingly demand a greater say in Australian public life, after being used as a “cash cow” by both sides of politics then ignored, according to one of the country’s biggest political donors.Huang Xiangmo, chairman of property developer Yuhu Group, who has given more than $1 million to both sides of politics in Australia since 2012, said Chinese donors should no longer be silent.
“The Australian Chinese community is inexperienced in using political donations to satisfy political requests,” he wrote in an editorial for the state-run Global Times newspaper, which circulates throughout China, on Monday.
“We need to learn … how to have a more efficient combination between political requests and political donations.”
The editorial, written in Mandarin, comes amid greater scrutiny of Chinese government influences in Australia and how Beijing is increasingly using friendly local parties to promote its interests.
The Australian Financial Review and others have pointed out in recent months how Chinese soft power has permeated Australian think tanks, political parties, the media and schools.
The editorial by Mr Huang appears to be in response to a report by the ABC, which said Chinese-linked companies had donated more than $5.5 million to both sides of politics between 2013 and 2015.
This has led to calls for a ban on foreign contributions.
Mr Huang is head of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, which hosts government officials on visits to Australia. He has given speeches urging Chinese Australians to oppose Taiwanese and Tibetan independence and met with politicians in his capacity as head of that council.
In his editorial, the 46-year-old wrote that Chinese Australians had previously believed political donations were like “protection money” paid to “bandits” along a road.
“Paying the money would bring a sense of security,” he wrote.
“Chinese people were always used as a cash cow by politicians, but then they did not worry about helping the Chinese community.”
Mr Huang said this model was outdated and the Chinese community needed to demand a greater say in Australian public life.
“We have been friendly to political parties but silent on political issues,” he wrote.
“Even though Chinese people were one of the earliest builders of Australia we have stayed away from local politics and for a long time we were willing to have no voice.”
Mr Huang has emerged in recent years as one of the highest-profile and most outspoken members of the Chinese community in Australia.
He gave $1.8 million to establish the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, headed by former foreign minister and NSW Labor premier Bob Carr.
It advocates a “positive and optimistic view of Australia-China relations” and replaced the previous Chinese studies department, which took a more sceptical line on Beijing.
Mr Huang has also helped Labor Senator Sam Dastyari pay legal bills dating from his time running the ALP in NSW.
He has also donated $1 million to the Children’s Medical Research Institute at Westmead and pledged $3.5 million for an Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture at Western Sydney University.
Mr Huang, who is famous in Sydney property circles for paying $13 million for a house in Mosman, said the Australian media were incorrect to believe Chinese political donations would distort democracy.
“Such accusations were never made against other races,” he wrote.
He also said the media made no distinction between Australian-Chinese, Chinese from the mainland or those from other parts of South East Asia.
But he said the biggest mistake was linking all donations back to the Chinese government.
“Without any evidence the Australian media links all donations with the Chinese government,” he wrote.
“They [the media] even use Cold War thinking to describe this conspiracy theory.
“They want the Australian-Chinese community to remain silent and to not have a proportional voice.”