More than 300 academics and scientists from tertiary and government research institutions around Australia have been recruited by the Chinese Communist Party, a new submission to a parliamentary inquiry has revealed.
Alex Joske, the CCP-influence expert who made the submission, said as many as 600 Australians may have been recruited, warning that the secretive programs could be associated with up to $280 million in grant fraud.
He also raised concerns it could lead to Chinese infiltration and tech fraud.
Last August, The Australian revealed dozens of researchers had been offered lucrative salaries and perks as part of Beijing’s Thousand Talents Plans.
In return, their inventions must be patented in China and they’re obliged to abide by Chinese law, worrying security experts that certain technology and inventions, funded by Australian taxpayers, were being sent to China and used to advance their military and intelligence.
“It serves the dual purpose of modernising China’s military and is also commercially valuable,” former British diplomat, Matthew Henderson, told the paper at the time.
“At the moment we are giving greater shelf life to the most appalling regime the world has ever known because the best of our abilities are being stolen from us or handed over on a silver platter.”
In his recent submission, Mr Joske highlighted that 59 of the academics and researchers received competitive fellowships worth between $1 million and $3 million from the Australian Research Council (ARC) while maintaining employment in China.
“CCP talent recruitment activity in Australia may be associated with as much as $280 million in grant fraud over the past two decades,” Mr Joske’s submission states.
“Australian research grants come with clear requirements to disclose conflicts of interest. In some cases, they prohibit recipients from taking up external employment or other fellowships and require them to predominantly reside in Australia.
“Such behaviour would also breach university policies on conflicts of interest, external employment, intellectual property and research commercialisation.”
The University of Queensland’s George Zhao, a participant in two Chinese government talent recruitment programs who also won two of the ARC’s most lucrative full-time fellowships worth $3.9 million, was identified in the submission as someone of concern.
Former Australian National University and Curtin University professor Brad Yu Changbin was also flagged, having joined multiple talent recruitment programs while working on Defence-funded drone swarm projects in Australia.
He’s now the chief technician of the Chinese military’s fixed-wing drone program.
RELATED: China virus probe will ‘get answers’
Examples of the talent recruitment was evident at all Australian leading universities: Monash had the highest number of participants at 35, followed by UQ at 31, UNSW at 27 and the CSIRO at 24.
“I think it’s really concerning,” Mr Joske, who estimates that the Thousand Talents Plan represents only a third of the 325 cases he identified, told The Australian.
“Combined with the possible extent of grant fraud and other forms of misconduct associated with this activity, it is really an alarming issue.”
He added that compared to other countries, the CCP’s talent recruitment push was “disproportionately” focused on Australia.
“One of the key takeaways is that the Thousand Talents Plan is particularly important, but it is just one part of the bigger picture of Chinese government talent recruitment,” Mr Joske said.
“But all these programs raised similar concerns.”
An ARC spokeswoman told the paper it had not received any details of the allegations raised by Mr Joske, but the council expected the “highest standards of integrity in all aspects or research funds”.
“All universities have obligations to ensure that appropriate due diligence is undertaken,” she said.