China lodges complaint over Australia's interference claim

  • 09/12/2017
Malcolm Turnbull said foreign powers were trying to influence Australian politics.
Malcolm Turnbull said foreign powers were trying to influence Australian politics. Photo credit: File

China has lodged a complaint with Australia after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he took reports very seriously that China's Communist Party had sought to interfere in his country.

Mr Turnbull said this week that foreign powers were making "unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process" in Australia and the world.

He cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence".

Mr Turnbull, speaking to parliament on Thursday during the introduction of legislation to stop external interference in domestic politics, reiterated those concerns.

"Media reports have suggested that the Chinese Communist Party has been working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities and even the decisions of elected representatives right here in this building. We take these reports very seriously."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing he was "shocked" by what Mr Turnbull had said.

"We express strong dissatisfaction at this and have already lodged solemn representations with the Australian side," Mr Geng told a daily news briefing.

Mr Geng said China had always respected the principle of non-interference in internal affairs when dealing with Australia.

"We strongly urge the relevant Australian person to spurn Cold War thinking and prejudice towards China, immediately stop making wrong comments that harm political mutual trust and mutually beneficial co-operation and take effective steps to dispel negative effects," he said.

Mr Geng's remarks were China's latest and strongest broadside against Australia on the issue.

The Chinese embassy in Australia on Wednesday accused Australia of hysteria and paranoia after Mr Turnbull vowed to ban foreign political donations to curb external influence in domestic politics.

China's soft power has come under renewed focus this week after Labor senator Sam Dastyari was demoted to the opposition back bench after being found to have warned a prominent Chinese business leader and Communist Party member his phone was being tapped by intelligence authorities.

In June, Fairfax Media and the ABC reported on a concerted campaign by China to "infiltrate" Australian politics to promote Chinese interests.