Book alleging China influence in Australia to be published in March after delay

SYDNEY - A book that alleges widespread Chinese government influence in Australian institutions will be released next month (March) after it was acquired by a new publisher.

Silent Invasion: China's Influence In Australia was written by Clive Hamilton, a prominent Australian author and professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University.

He said three publishers had previously declined to take on the book due to fears of legal action from Beijing.

In November 2017, Allen & Unwin - one of Australia's largest independent publishers - said it decided to delay the publication following "extensive legal advice".

Hamilton, who has previously published eight books with Allen & Unwin, asked for the return of the book's rights and has rewritten the book to minimise the legal risk.

"I can't stop an authoritarian foreign power using vexatious litigation by its proxies to suppress a book criticising it," Hamilton was quoted as saying by Books+Publishing magazine online. "The reason three publishers refused to publish this book is the very reason the book needs to be published."

Hardie Grant Books said it plans to release the title in Australia next month.

In a statement, Hardie Grant CEO Sandy Grant said it "was clear Silent Invasion needed to be published."

"This is substantive research bringing to light a concerted effort by the Chinese Communist Party to gain influence in a covert manner," said Grant.

The news came a day after Fairfax Media reported on Monday (Feb 5) that key members of the Australian federal parliament's national security committee were considering publishing Hamilton's manuscript under parliamentary privilege. It said this would prevent the author from being sued, and protect others such as journalists who re-publish the contents of the book.

Concern in Australia that Beijing may be extending its influence in the country has become a topic of political debate and media coverage over the past year, reported Reuters.

In June 2017, Fairfax Media and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on a concerted campaign by China to "infiltrate" Australian politics to promote Chinese interests.

China denied the claims in the reports, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry said were "totally unfounded and irresponsible".

In December 2017, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the country will ban foreign political donations as part of a crackdown aimed at preventing external interference in domestic politics.

Turnbull told reporters that foreign powers were making "unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process" in Australia and the world. He cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence", reported Reuters.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Australia released a statement to categorically reject all allegations.

"China has no intention to interfere in Australia's internal affairs or exert influence on its political process through political donations," the embassy said.

"We urge the Australian side to look at China and China-Australia relations in an objective, fair and rational manner," it added.