SYDNEY - The first Chinese-born woman to sit in the lower house of Australia’s federal parliament is under a sustained attack for failing to disclose her membership in organizations linked to China’s Communist Party.
There are claims Gladys Liu had connections with senior figures in Beijing’s covert political propaganda apparatus, which have raised questions about her eligibility to sit in the Australian parliament.
The lawmaker has admitted being a member of the China Overseas Exchange Association between 2003 and 2015, which at the time was part of China’s powerful State Council, the Chinese government's central political and administrative body. The Hong Kong-born politician says her membership was entirely innocent, and has denied any conflict of interest. She said she is “a proud Australian.”
Australia’s center-right Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Liu is the victim of a “smear” campaign with a “grubby undertone”.
The political assault is led by the opposition Labor Party. It has demanded to know if the government had received warnings about her from Australia's intelligence agencies. Ministers have declined to comment.
Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese denies the scrutiny of Liu is based on race and says he wants to get to the truth.
“What the motivation is here is to ensure that there is accountability for people’s actions. It has nothing to do with race and the only person who has raised race in these issues are, of course, prime minister Morrison,” he said.
Gladys Liu is a former speech pathologist who became an Australian citizen in 1992. Her parliamentary career has collided with growing anxiety in Australia over allegations of Chinese meddling in its domestic politics, and cyber espionage. A taskforce is to investigate foreign interference in Australian universities because of fears over China’s growing influence on campuses.
These are sensitive issues, given Australia’s reliance on China for its recent prosperity. China is Australia’s biggest trading partner.