A new report by the Australia Tibet Council finds an increased Chinese influence in Australia’s political and educational institutions, leading to the Australian Government’s diminished engagement on Tibet. The report finds that the Australian silence on Tibet is notable, with not a single public statement issued for nearly a decade, and with no Australian Prime Minister meeting the Dalai Lama since 2009 although he has visited the country five times during that period.
The report, Australia’s silence on Tibet: How China is shaping our agenda, was released in Australia’s Parliament House on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, in the presence of parliamentarians, including Senators Lisa Singh and Dean Smith, MPs Michael Danby, Mike Freelander, and David Feeney.
The report shows that covert pressure at universities, increasingly dependent on Chinese funding, has produced a culture of self-censorship in the Australian academic community. Australia is home to many acclaimed China scholars, but few are willing to engage in critical discussions about Tibet for fear of a backlash from the university management or Chinese students on campuses.
“Our report shows that the activities of key Chinese donors to Australia’s major political parties and universities are an integral part of China’s global mission to reshape the narrative on Tibet,” said Australia Tibet Council’s Campaigns Manager Kyinzom Dhongdue.
“China’s attempts to influence Australia’s foreign policy is a threat to both the Tibet movement and the strength of Australian democracy. Australia’s silence on Tibet contradicts its own values and diminishes its moral standing,” Dhongdue said.
The report called on the Australian Government to launch a full and independent inquiry into China’s attempts to influence policy and decision-making in Australia. It called on Australia to uphold its democratic principles and stand up for the Tibetan people by publicly endorsing Tibetan call for freedom and human rights in Tibet, by supporting Tibetan leadership’s efforts to find a resolution with the Chinese leadership, and by meeting the Dalai Lama at the highest level. The report also said Australia should join like-minded governments to initiate visible coordinated diplomatic action on Tibet.
The report urged the Australian Parliament to “initiate a vigorous and balanced debate over the many legitimate concerns brought to the fore by the revelations of China’s influence on Australian politics.”
It also called on the universities to protect their academic integrity by encouraging scholars and students to examine the Tibet issue openly and critically. It further said the universities should ensure that the programs at the Confucius Institutes are balanced and free of external pressures, by holding public lectures on topics that are relevant to Chinese culture and history but are currently forbidden – such as Tibet, the Dalai Lama, Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square massacre.