In Liu of answers

liu

I don’t know Gladys Liu from a bar of soap, so I have no idea whether she’s got any compromising relationship with the Chinese communist authorities and their numerous overseas tentacles. Or indeed whether such concerns predate the recent eruption of controversy around the Liberal member for Chisholm:

Senior Liberals say they were told the intelligence community warned the party against preselecting Gladys Liu for the seat of Chisholm before this year’s federal election.

Two state Liberal MPs and a former senior staffer have confirmed to the Herald Sun they were told in 2018 that “men in grey suits” had warned a senior party official there were concerns about Ms Liu’s links to the Chinese Communist Party and that it would not be wise for the Liberal Party to preselect her.

The Hong Kong-born MP yesterday said she should have chosen her words “better” in a trainwreck television interview, but hit out at “deeply offensive” questions about her loyalty to Australia.

Labor called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to assure voters Ms Liu was a “fit and proper” person to be in parliament after a string of revelations about her links to groups infamous for pushing pro-Beijing propaganda.

Ms Liu yesterday admitted to previous associations with three groups with links to China’s covert political influence operations.

According to 2GB’s Ray Hadley, one individual spinning such stories is Malcolm “The Miserable Ghost” Turnbull. Malcolm thankfully hasn’t been heard from in public much recently, but if Hadley’s sources are correct, it won’t surprise many that the former unlamented PM is continuing to seek revenge from beyond the political grave on the party that spurned him; in other words he is being as helpful to the Liberal Party now as he was as its leader. The source of such stories about Liu or the source’s motivation, of course, have no definite bearing on the ultimate question whether such stories are true or not, so we need to wait and see.

In the meantime, it is interesting to reflect on the Liu saga in the light of the long-running debacle last year, which saw a number of members and senators disqualified from their elected position on account of their dual citizenships. Liu is an Australian citizen only, so she would not have fallen foul of section 44 of the Constitution, which just goes to show that the law in question, while well intended, is merely a distraction to the main game, as I wrote back in November:

1.Most of the parliamentarians holding dual citizenships are citizens of our staunchest allies and our fellow English-speaking democracies like New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada (and not, for example, Syria, North Korea and Cuba). While the Anglosphere countries of course don’t always have the same interests, the possibility of a real conflict that would potentially divide “the duals”‘ loyalties are in practice pretty remote.

2. Citizenship is merely a formality, in a sense that the absence of another citizenship does not imply or guarantee the absence of loyalty to another country. One could easily imagine a case of a parliamentarian who remains deeply (even treasonously) loyal to a country of his or her ancestors while never having been a citizen of that country or having previously renounced that citizenship in order to run for the Australian parliament. Since neither the constitution nor any of us can peer into somebody’s mind, such situation is impossible to prevent.

3. The bad laws enacted over the past decades by the parliament, the laws that proved not to be in our nation’s best interest, got enacted not because of some parliamentarians’ loyalty to other countries but their loyalty to bad ideas and ideologies. Again, nothing that the constitution can fix.

Again, without prejudging Liu’s situation, the current controversy clearly demonstrates that a mere legal status is completely irrelevant to a question whether a person has got dual loyalties to foreign interests that are inimical to Australia – or, to be more precise, a single prevailing loyalty to foreign over Australia’s interests. In the end, what truly matters is not a piece of paper but your intent to serve the cause of dangerous, anti-democratic, anti-liberal, totalitarian states or ideologies, whether they are communism, Nazism (this one is an abstract example nowadays), Islamofascism or some other such.

Until relatively recently, most people have been quite oblivious to the existence and the extent of a covert and semi-covert campaign of influence ran overseas by the Chinese communist rulers to further their international influence and make the world safe for the Chinese superpower and “the Chinese way”. Quite often, this campaign has been run utilising the huge Chinese diaspora, or to be more precise those sections of it which are genuinely “patriotic” and supportive of China and its regime as well as those who can be enticed, pressured or blackmailed into service, for example on the account of their existing family and business ties with the mainland. To point this out is not to cast doubts on the whole Chinese-Australian community or engage in race-baiting – this issue has nothing to do with race and ethnicity and everything to do with ideology, namely the Chinese communist party’s heady mix of authoritarianism and nationalism that sees itself in conflict with the West and its values of freedom and democracy.

At the very least, the train wreck interview Liu gave to Andrew Bolt, where the memory of her past associations fails her, and she umms and ahs about China’s expansion into the South China Sea and the question whether President Xi is a dictator or not, shines the spotlight on the ethno-political tightrope that some elected representatives (not to mention others, like business people or community leaders) feel forced to walk in order not to antagonise any section of their assumed base. Trying to be everything to everyone is a temptation for many a politician, and mostly harmless (if dispiriting for the public), but it starts verging on questionable and even dangerous when it involves existential ideological questions like the struggle between freedom and tyranny.

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