Millionaire Chinese property developer quietly expelled for ‘security breach’

Two Australians, news broadcaster Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun, are currently being held in China on charges of breaching national security laws. Their indictment and detention drew repeated rebukes from Beijing from Foreign Secretary Marise Payne.

The most high-profile deportation of residents from the federal government is that of Huang Xiangmo, a Chinese billionaire gambler and political donor in Sydney who was banned from Australia in February 2019 after ASIO accused him of being prone to engage in acts of foreign interference. Mr. Huang denies any wrongdoing.

Huang Xiangmo and Bill Shorten in 2013.Credit:James Brickwood

Foreign interference involves covert or coercive acts, committed on behalf of a foreign state, which are intended to influence the Australian political system or harm national security.

The Anti-Foreign Interference Task Force, led by ASIO and AFP, has accused Melbourne businessman Sunny Duong of engaging in foreign interference on behalf of China. Sydney man John Zhang, a former staffer of former Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane, has also been investigated over whether he collaborated with Beijing to influence NSW policy.

Mr Zheng’s deportation took place last year, after ASIO first warned the federal government in 2020 that he posed a security risk. Among the disputed charges ASIO has leveled at him is that he was in constant contact with an official from the Ministry of State Security, China’s civilian intelligence agency.

This alleged senior spy allegedly asked Mr Zheng to approach the son of a human rights activist detained in Melbourne, China and offer him $20,000. Sources said ASIO suspects the offer of a meeting and funds, both of which the student refused, was an attempt to pressure his father to stop criticizing Beijing.

A source close to Mr. Zheng said it was just a charity offer.

ASIO also suspects that the alleged spy instructed Mr Zheng to undertake other activities, including searching for the Australian assets of a senior Chinese Communist Party security official, Liu Yanping. Mr Liu was charged in March by Chinese authorities with “alleged violation of discipline and the law”, a term that is generally a euphemism for corruption.

There is no suggestion or evidence that Mr. Zheng is himself an intelligence agent, but the sources confirmed that Mr. Zheng confirmed to ASIO officers in 2020 that he had helped an elusive Chinese figure. to perform certain tasks in Australia. In an interview with ASIO, Mr Zheng said the character had never asked him to do anything that would affect Australia’s security, and that the relationship between China and Australia “should be Dear”.

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According to his supporters, Mr Zheng insists he only helped the alleged spy with mundane tasks. Mr. Zheng’s ultimate goal was to encourage the Chinese authorities to help him recover the money he claims was stolen from his company in China.

While Mr Zheng has kept a low profile in Australia for several years, he actively sought publicity in the Australian press in 2015 to raise allegations that his $2 billion Chinese conglomerate had been stripped of its assets by corruption.

Mr. Zheng’s scam allegations appear to have aligned him with the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security, as the man Mr. Zheng claims to have stolen from his company is runaway Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, which has been targeted for years by the ministry.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, right, greets runaway Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui in New York.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, right, greets runaway Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui in New York.Credit:Don Emmert

Mr Guo fled to New York in 2014 after being accused of corruption by the Chinese government. He has since become one of the Chinese Communist Party’s fiercest critics, conducting interviews with news outlets around the world.

Mr Zheng declined to answer questions from this masthead about his deportation, but it is understood he told his lawyers to file a legal challenge against his unfavorable security assessment.

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