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Chinese Academic, Previously Banned from Australia, Becomes Part of High-Level Bilateral Dialogue

A Chinese professor whose Australian visa was cancelled due to security concerns is alleged to have taken in high-level discussions between China and Australia last week in Beijing.

In 2020, Chen Hong, a professor of Australian Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, had his visa revoked amid foreign interference allegations in New South Wales, following advice from the Australian Security Intelligence Agency (ASIO).

Mr. Chen, director of the Centre for Australian Studies at East China Normal University since 2001, has been visiting Australia since the early 1990s.

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He was a former interpreter for former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke during his China in 1994.

The professor has maintained he did nothing wrong and has continued to criticise the former Morrison government for its standing up to Beijing on the origins of COVID-19.

“Australia’s previous Morrison government insisted on being the vanguard of the U.S.-China strategy, causing serious damage to China-Australia relations,” he said in Chinese media last week.

“If Australian policymakers have sufficient political wisdom to approach the relationship with a more positive and stable attitude, and no longer use political labels to create obstacles to the relationship, I believe that the prospects for cooperation between the two countries will be broader.”

Former Australian cabinet ministers, Julie Bishop and Craig Emerson ,participated in the Australia-China High Level Dialogue in Beijing on Sept. 7, 2023. (Credit to Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs)
Former Australian cabinet ministers, Julie Bishop and Craig Emerson ,participated in the Australia-China High Level Dialogue in Beijing on Sept. 7, 2023. (Credit to Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs)

Mr. Chen also criticized Australia prioritising its alliance with the United States over its comprehensive strategic partnership with China as “totally irrational” and “illogical.”

Yet despite this stance, Mr. Chen is alleged to have attended the seventh Australia-China High-Level Dialogue on Sept. 7, the first time leaders from both countries have met after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) instigated its trade coercion in retaliation to calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also attending the event was Cheng Jingye, former Chinese ambassador to Canberra known for his “wolf warrior” diplomacy and the face of Beijing’s trade war against Australia.

Another attendee was Tang Yongsheng, a major general of the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army who dismissed the United States’ assessment on Beijing’s warhead numbers and cited military parades as an example of communist China’s transparency.


The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) declined to confirm whether the Australian government objected to the attendance of any members of the event.

“The Chinese delegation for the High-Level Dialogue was decided by China,” a DFAT spokesperson told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Former Labor Trade Minister Craig Emerson led Australia’s delegation, opening the proceedings by declaring the “complementarity of our economies has brought great benefit to both our peoples over the years,” ABC reported.

“I welcome the recent positive developments in the bilateral relationship, but we know that there is more work to do—the timely and full resumption of normal trade is in the interests of both our countries,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he would visit China by Christmas in a push for the easing of trade sanctions, making him the first Australian prime minister to visit China in seven years.

He also said that the release of two detained Australian citizens in China, Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun, would not be a precondition for his visit to Beijing.

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