Agreements between Australian universities and China should be have to be pre-approved by the government, according to a federal inquiry.
Agreements between Australian universities and China should be have to be pre-approved by the government, according to a federal inquiry.

New warning for Aussie universities’ China ties

Australian universities should be forced to seek government approval before entering any type of agreement with China, a federal government inquiry has been told.

In a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's inquiry on foreign interference in the higher education sector, the Falun Dafa Association of Australia said the federal government needed the power to veto agreements as "anything related to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is inevitably related to our national security".

Falun Dafa, also called Falun Gong, is a spiritual exercise which was outlawed in China in 1999.

In its 12-page submission to the inquiry earlier this month, the association also recommended the federal government create a program to help universities "have a full knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party, its methods of operation and risks".

In the scathing submission, the Falun Dafa Association of Australia also said: "The CCP has created a society where dishonesty is rampant and blatant disregard for international agreements and defrauding the international community has become the norm."

In April 1999, thousands of Falun Gong members held a protest in Beijing outside the headquarters of the ruling communist party.

In response the Chinese government said Falun Gong had "created disturbance and jeopardised social stability", and the movement was quickly banned, with the government labelling it an "evil cult".

A controversial report published in Canada in 2006 stated that Falun Gong members were being sent to prison with some having their organs harvested - claims which are regularly made by protesters in Melbourne who are trying to raise awareness of the issue.

Earlier this month the Australian Federal Police also made a submission to the inquiry.

In its submission the AFP outlined a number of hypothetical scenarios in which it believes universities face national security risks.

The AFP believes members of think tanks could be targeted in a bid to influence government policy, foreign governments could use agents to steal trade secrets involving sensitive university projects as well as using overseas students to collect information on senior academics who also hold government policy roles.

"The AFP is aware of reporting that academic institutions and research bodies are targeted by foreign principals to enhance their understanding of policy, research and scientific advances," the AFP's submission said.

"This has been achieved through financial coercion, threatening academics and their families and /or covert contractual arrangements protecting intellectual property and commercial interests in favour of the foreign state."

Originally published as New warning for Aussie universities' China ties