Australian media hype about visa firm 'typical rumor-mongering'
Published: Feb 24, 2021 09:14 PM

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Reports in the Australian media about the Australian visa program being linked to a Chinese firm are "typical rumor mongering," a Chinese expert said, after the visa services provider denied that it has access to data related to visa applications.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story with the headline "Security fears over state-linked company processing visas in China" on Wednesday, saying that VFS Global, which provides visa services for Australia in 43 countries, is using a Chinese government-linked company to process visa applications in Beijing, sparking security concerns.

The report came as the visa services provider, which also runs Canada's visa application centers overseas, offered testimony on Monday at the House of Commons committee on working with a local firm, Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Services Co, which appeared to worry some Canadian members of parliament on data security. 

However, VFS refuted concerns that Chinese authorities may have access to the visa applications of foreign individuals. 

VFS' chief communications officer Peter Brun told the Australian media that their owners or investors have absolutely no access to any data at these visa application centers and no IT infrastructure access, according to the Sydney Morning Post. And VFS Global does not have any servers in China, where applicant data is stored.

However, the Australian media said that as VFS Global is using Beijing Dongfang Tianxiao Entry-Exit Service Co to process applications for Australian visas in Beijing, it raises fears about a "crackdown on ethnic groups" or those fleeing from Hong Kong after the national security law for Hong Kong took effect last June. 

"This is a typical instance of some ill-intentioned media outlets and journalists creating sensationalism with the aim of manipulating public opinion and influencing government policies," said Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University.

Chen said it is an internationally accepted practice to use local subcontractors, staff and facilities for visa applications, which involves enormously laborious processing work. He noted that every visa services operator, in this case VFS, has its own practice and routine to ensure the security and encryption of the relevant information. 

He said that the Australian media was being intrusive and disruptive to the already established mechanism of visa processing in China, which has been operating smoothly and securely, as testified to by the review of the Australian Department of Home Affairs. 

"This report is in essence rumor mongering, a nefarious attempt to fan up fear and panic, and demonize China and Chinese service agencies," Chen said, noting it is part of a series of attempts to try to hype up conspiracy theories to smear the Chinese system of governance and society. 

"The smear campaign is being carried out with baseless presumptive conjecture and is a betrayal of the principles and guidelines of journalism, which promote honesty, verity and truth," he said.

The Canadian media reported that Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Services Co is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, but Public Services and Procurement Canada said it was "not aware of their corporate ownership structure and whether or not it was owned by the Beijing public security bureau," according a report by the Globe and Mail. 

blog comments powered by Disqus