Chinese President Xi Jinping has given his personal endorsement to an international conference run by an Australian political donor caught up in allegations of foreign influence in Australian politics.
Xi outlined China’s plan to take a greater role in global governance in a speech to conference delegates who travelled to Beijing. Chau Chak Wing, who ran the conference, is one of two Chinese businessmen named by ASIO in briefings to the Labor and Liberal party organisations in 2015 about political donations.
Despite former prime minister John Howard being promoted as a drawcard on the website of the conference, the Imperial Springs International Forum, he did not travel to China this week, his office in Sydney confirmed to Fairfax Media.
The conference came as the issue of Chinese influence once again blew up in Australia, and Senator Sam Dastyari was forced to step down as the Labor Party’s assistant Senate whip over his connection with the other major Chinese donor subject to ASIO briefings, Huang Xiangmo.
Xi told conference delegates that China would not take the path of “becoming a hegemony” when it becomes a globally powerful nation. It was against “imposing its will” on others, he said, and also against interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
The Imperial Springs International Forum in Guangzhou is named after Chau’s palatial resort, and co-sponsored by his Australia-China Friendship and Exchange Association.
Twenty former world leaders including former UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon and ex New Zealand prime minister, Jenny Shipley, attended the forum to discuss “China’s perspective in global affairs”.
Xi told the delegates, who travelled to Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Thursday, that China would “open the door” to the world.
According to a front page report in the People’s Daily, Xi said: “People in every country have the right to choose their own development path”.
He said China would push for a “new type of international relations” based on mutual respect, and giving up the traditional “rule of the jungle” and not making alliances.
Xi’s speech to forum delegates was given blanket coverage in Chinese state media, including a seven-minute segment on national TV bulletins and a front-page group photograph of Xi and the delegates, including Chau, in state newspapers.
Chau’s speech was also featured on TV, and reported by the People’s Daily.
The co-sponsor of the forum is the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, which is described as being “entrusted by the government” to participate in international cooperation on behalf of Chinese local governments.
The reports said the Imperial Springs forum was established in 2015 with “the approval of the Chinese government”.
By Kirsty Needham