Exclusive: Chinese academic slams visa cancellation by Australia
Published: Sep 14, 2021 12:29 AM
China Australia. Photo: VCG

China Australia. Photo: VCG

After Australian media reports revealed that the country's government revoked the visa of prominent Chinese academic Chen Hong on national security grounds, Chen told the Global Times about the incident in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. He said the Australian authorities had shown a "complete lack of transparency."

Chen, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University, said he received a letter from Australia's Department of Home Affairs revoking his three-month business visa in July 2020. The letter claimed Chen had been assessed by the Australian ASIO intelligence agency as a "security risk to Australia," according to a report by Australian media outlet ABC on Sunday. 

The visa cancellation was said to be related to a chat group on Chinese social media platform WeChat of which Chen was a member.

The chat group, named FD or "Fair Dinkum," also included Australian politician Shaoquett Moselmane and a member of his staff, as well as another Chinese academic, several Chinese journalists and some Chinese Australians.

Chen said that Moselmane had a fair and objective view of China. 

"The WeChat group rarely discussed political issues, but mostly shared news stories and details of members' daily lives, like barbecues, fishing trips, etc. We also shared jokes and funny stories, just like in any chat group," said Chen. "Who would use a WeChat group for political interference?" he asked.

"I have never done anything that could be of risk to Australia's security," Chen said. He believes that the visa revocation was due to some mistaken assessment of his relationship with Australia by the intelligence agency. 

Australian media reports said that in April 2020, when China was fighting COVID-19, Moselmane openly spoke positively of China's efforts to combat the pandemic, which attracted the attention of the Australian authorities. 

ABC said an AFP-ASIO Foreign Interference Task Force investigated an alleged plot by the "Communist Party of China to infiltrate the Parliament of New South Wales through the office of Labor backbencher Moselmane." This was widely regarded as part of a persecution campaign of Australian politicians deemed "pro-China."

Moselmane resigned from his post as assistant president of the Legislative Council after being put under pressure in April 2020, Australian media reports said. But police investigations proved inconclusive and Moselmane has resumed his parliamentary role, Chen told the Global Times.

However, to date, the Australian authorities have failed to give any explanation of the visa cancellation although Chen wrote back to Australia's Department of Home Affairs in August last year saying he was "shocked" by the decision and that he refused to accept the assessment. 

He said in the letter that he was always available to be contacted if they needed any clarification.

"There has been no contact whatsoever. It is still unsolved, like a stone dropped into the sea," Chen was quoted as saying by ABC.