JERRY ROBERTS. The Dalai Lama, Falun Gong and Australian Democracy.

Apr 5, 2018

In his 2010 book, “The Party,” Richard McGregor described the iron grip exercised by the Chinese Communist Party on its homeland. Now Clive Hamilton in “Silent Invasion” traces the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party as it squeezes Australia’s political, corporate and academic bodies. We should all read both books.

The new Hamilton book spooked me because the author covers the same points I unwittingly foreshadowed in an earlier Pearls and Irritations post (19 February) and he has exactly the same starting point – the Chinese Government’s vendetta against the Dalai Lama. Clive Hamilton was in Canberra in 2008 when the Olympic torch arrived on its way to Beijing and he joined Tibetan protesters outside Parliament House.

“Tens of thousands of Chinese students had arrived early and their mood was angry and aggressive. As the torch approached, the pro-Tibet protesters, vastly outnumbered, were mobbed and abused by a sea of Chinese people wielding red flags ……. Where did all these people come from? Why were they so frenzied? And I was affronted. How dare they arrive on the doorstep of our Parliament, the symbol of our democracy, and shut down a legitimate protest, leaving me and a few hundred others feeling intimidated for expressing our opinions?”

In the 19 February post, I recalled my anger watching television footage of Chinese students attacking supporters of the Tibetan cause when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Canberra. I added this concern to the rock star greeting from Australia’s Indian diaspora to visiting Indian Prime Minister and Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, and worried about a Fifth Column, observing that we have overdone immigration and multi-culturalism and agreeing with Pauline Hanson and Dick Smith on that point, but for different reasons. Tony Abbot came in later.

According to one of Clive Hamilton’s well-placed informants, Australia is considered by Chinese strategic planners to be an easy target for subversion because our “openness, relatively small population, large number of Chinese immigrants and commitment to multiculturalism have weakened our capacity to recognise and defend against this threat.”

This is a provocative and impassioned book. The author identifies one of the underlying problems of our time that favoured the Chinese. China’s strategic expansion coincided with a period we knew in Australia as economic rationalism, now known correctly as neoliberalism. Everything was about economics. Traditional strategic thinking and Statecraft went out the window and became lost arts. Our ideology played into the hands of the silent invaders. We ceased to be a nation and became a market. This reached an astonishing climax when we ceded control of the key northern port of Darwin. I still find it hard to believe and yet hardly a word was spoken, let alone a shot fired.

The venality of contemporary politicians has taken many of us by surprise. We often hear remarks about the sad spectacle of people who have been well paid on the public purse for many years retiring with comfortable superannuation only to take even more highly-paid jobs in the corporate world, thereby foregoing the opportunity to do something decent for the first time in their lives, such as voluntary driving for organisations like Meals on Wheels, where they would meet normal, honest human beings, not the creeps who hang around the political and corporate worlds. In another post (29 December 2017) I speculated that it was not just the money with these types. They liked the corridors of power.

Clive Hamilton is superb on this point. “Beijing understands that our former Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers have walked the world stage and feel they have important things to say. So, when they travel to China they are feted and fawned over. The people they once ruled may not give them their due but the Chinese Communist Party knows how to honour a man of achievement, to restore the V and the I to the P. It has developed subtle techniques to stoke egos….”

We knew we were in trouble with China when Deng Xiaoping, having slaughtered a bunch of harmless kids in Tiananmen Square, produced Confucian a la Wall Street sayings like “to be rich is glorious” and “it does not matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” He matched the philosophy of Gordon Gecko. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, for lack of a better word, greed is good.”

Hamilton is at pains to distinguish between the hordes of brain-washed new-look Chinese, like the rent-a-crowd thugs at the Tibet demonstrations, and the more thoughtful Australians of Chinese descent who are among our most loyal citizens because they understand only too well the dark side of the modern Chinese State. Interestingly, these loyal Chinese Australians appreciate Pauline Hanson’s Australian nationalism.

The author concludes the book with two crucial questions. What percentage of the one million Chinese now living in Australia are loyal to Australia and what percentage to Beijing? Opinions differ as they do on the final issue. Can we regain Australian independence or is it too late and are we doomed to be a Chinese vassal? Clive Hamilton sides with the optimists and sees the recovery as a 10-year project.

One of many basic mistakes we are making in public policy is in our understanding of immigration and nation-building. Barefoot, penniless refugees make much better Australian citizens than filthy rich Chinese tycoons importing their ill-gotten millions and corrupting our insipid politicians, business people and professors.

Consider earlier waves of immigration and refugees. Take the Hungarians, for example. After Russian tanks rumbled into Budapest in 1956 and crushed their uprising some Hungarians escaped on foot through the forests and across the rivers to arrive in Vienna with the clothes they were wearing. When I first worked in government, Andrew Mensaros was the West Australian Minister for Industrial Development, Mines and Energy. He was one such Hungarian. He was the brains of Sir Charles Court’s Cabinet but he had a lot of time for Colin Jamieson, the Leader of the Labor Opposition. He admired democracy, having witnessed the alternative. Later, when Ernie Bridge was the Labor Minister for Water Resources, he deeply appreciated the support and encouragement he received from Andrew Mensaros who was then sitting on the Opposition bench.

More recently I was rescued in dire straits on a lethally hot north-west afternoon by a Rumanian mechanic. He too arrived in Vienna without a brass razoo and with zero identification documents. He left them behind because he knew if the Rumanian border guards caught him with papers on his person they would have proof positive that he was fleeing the country and he would have copped an even heavier flogging that usual. In Vienna, he told Australian embassy officials that he was a mechanic. A young clerk lifted a heavy book off the shelf, opened it at the appropriate page and asked detailed questions about valve clearances that only a mechanic would know. Soon our new Rumanian Australian was working on diesel engines in Sydney.

As for the bunkum about University-standard English, I know elderly Italians in Perth who have halting English to this day but their children and grandchildren who have attended Australian schools speak and write English fluently. This is how we build our nation and our people — from the bottom up. The top-down method we now see destroying our nation and corrupting our people is familiar to South Americans, who have a word to describe their countrymen who enrich themselves as agents of foreign powers. They call them “compradors.” Clive Hamilton names names. I don’t because politics in my view is a battle of ideas and individuals are a mere passing parade.

My Canadian neighbour recently completed the Australian citizenship test successfully. I asked her if there were any questions about Section 116 of the Constitution. She looked blank, which I took as a negative. Under Section 116, Christians, Muslims and Jews are free to worship their One God. Tibetan Buddhists are free to gather and revere their Dalai Lama. Followers of Falun Gong are welcome to practise their meditation and exercise routines, which appear to be rather sensible.

I would like to think that the hard-nosed comrades who planned China’s strategy to exert hegemony over our region were at least a little surprised when Australia and New Zealand, the homes of the Anzacs, capitulated so easily to their sweet tongues and fat chequebooks.

And I would like to think that I am not the only Australian who would like to see our Prime Minister invite the Dalai Lama to lunch in the Parliament House dining room and spend the rest of the day with his parliamentary colleagues in a long and relaxed conversation with this wise man discussing religion, peace, justice and that sort of old-fashioned stuff. Then, when the phone rings with the threatening call from the Chinese President, I would like to hear our PM say in clear, Australian English: “Xi, old son, how come a big, strong, rich Chinese gentleman like you is so scared of an elderly Buddhist monk?

If the Western liberal democracies such as ours are to survive they have to stand for something. It has to be something good. In the 19 February post, I quoted Dr Chongyi Feng, a Chinese intellectual teaching in Sydney, and I will quote him again: “Freedom is the most valuable possession for mankind.” French philosopher Simone Weil wrote: “Respect is due to the individual as such and is not a matter of degree.”

Both Australian writers, McGregor and Hamilton, stress that China is a Leninist State. Lenin was successful because the times favoured him – the war and the foolishness of Czar Nicholas – and because he was a good judge of the pace. If he could speak from his mausoleum, Lenin would advise President Xi that he is going too far in his dictatorial attitude to foreign governments on religious matters.

Even the ruthless revolutionary Vladimir Lenin himself would not have contemplated forbidding the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers from dining with the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church. The Chinese persecution of Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong followers is weird. It is sick. It is unnatural and it is absolutely un-Australian.

We need to stop sucking up to the Chinese Communist Party before our country dies of shame.

Jerry Roberts is a journalist by trade, interested in politics and a member of the Australian Labor Party.

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