A gleefully paranoid report by the Sydney Morning Herald informs us that Australia’s university system has fallen prey to a ‘large covert informant network’ of Chinese spies, sent to keep tabs on classroom discussions of sensitive China-topics like Tibet and Falun Gong.
The Herald tracked down a lecturer who said he had been interrogated by “China’s main spy agency” after giving a democracy seminar at the University of NSW. The agency in question is presumably the Ministry of State Security, but the Herald doesn’t elaborate.
The piece accuses the Chinese government of confronting the parents of Chinese students studying abroad if their child steps out of line; as the Herald reports:
In one case, security officials told parents in China to constrain the activities of their son after informants reported he had seen the Dalai Lama in Australia. According to the lecturer who was interrogated in China, the person who informed on his comments at the University of NSW also fabricated information about him making donations to a democracy organisation. […]
Such informant networks are driving the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to increase its capabilities. ”They have more resources in Sydney University than we do,” an Australian official said. ”No question.”
If these allegations are true (which, let’s be real, we will probably never know) then perhaps Australia’s attempts at pulling in huge numbers of Chinese tourists have simply gotten a little too effective for their own good.