FRESH AIR

Australian LaRouchites get aggressive in shilling for the Chinese Communist Party

Sep 7, 2022 | Judy Maynard

Robert Barwick: Long standing Larouchite activist now a pro-China shill (YouTube screenshot)
Robert Barwick: Long standing Larouchite activist now a pro-China shill (YouTube screenshot)

Days before the UN released the latest report to condemn the Chinese Government for its human rights abuses of the Uyghur people, a senior official of a conspiracy-toting, pro-China, Australian political party was accused of harassing and intimidating a prominent local critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

SBS News reported that on Aug. 17 Robert Barwick, Research Director and failed Senate candidate for the Australian Citizen’s Party (ACP), was asked to leave a talk at Melbourne’s La Trobe University on the subject of the Chinese Government’s human rights record given by analyst and journalist Vicky Xiuzhong Xu.

The ACP, formerly known as the Citizens Electoral Council, is the Australian branch of the political movement founded by notorious American conspiracy theorist and convicted fraudster Lyndon LaRouche, who died in 2019.

China analyst Vicky Xu (Image: Wikipedia)

Xu and other attendees told SBS News that, while asking questions that challenged the legitimacy of Xu’s work, Barwick had behaved in a confronting and intimidatory manner towards her, an allegation he strenuously denied.

Xu formerly worked for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), and was the lead author of ASPI’s 2020 report “Uyghurs for Sale”, which condemned the alleged forced labour of Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking and mostly Muslim minority living in the Xinjiang region of northwest China.

The talk at La Trobe marked a return for Xu to media appearances, following a year and a half’s absence after being subjected to cyber attacks believed to have emanated from the CCP. Xu claims that since moving to Australia and speaking out on human rights, CCP supporters have tried to frighten activists like her from appearing at public events.

Xu said she’d recognised Barwick after a similar incident previously at Melbourne Airport where, according to Xu, he had “ambushed” her, a claim also denied by Barwick.

China critics around the world have found themselves targeted by an international campaign of intimidation waged by the Chinese Government in an attempt to silence them. As well, according to ASPI, the CCP uses foreign social media influencers to promote its preferred narrative about Xinjiang both at home and abroad.

The ACP are unabashed defenders of the Chinese Government, and Barwick has been their point person in this campaign. A search of the ACP website yields nearly 100 items published in 2022 alone, still with a few months to go. In 2021 it was 114, in 2020 120. It’s a safe bet that China’s depiction in most, if not all, of these, was uncritical.

The ACP parrots the views propagated from the US headquarters of the LaRouche movement. Headlines from the American website, such as “Is the Anglo-American War Party Preparing for War with China?” and “Crush the British War Party”, would be very much at home on the ACP’s website.

The transcript of a presentation from 2014 by earnest Australian acolyte Robert Barwick appears on the website of one of the LaRouche movement’s principal organisations, the pretentiously-named Schiller Institute. It provides a glimpse into the group’s cult-like nature, and its abiding conspiratorial preoccupations with numerous imagined nemeses including a cabal of London and Wall Street bankers; Anglo-American elites and warmongers; and a genocidally-inclined Prince Philip and his drug trafficking wife, the Queen. It is titled “Which way Australia: To hell with London and Wall Street, or to the heavens with the BRICS?.” (The acronym “BRICS” refers to the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.) The following is a selection of Barwick’s quotations from the transcript:

…Australia’s ruling layers are committed to the plans of the Anglo-American oligarchy – centred on the British Crown – for endless war, disguised as a so-called “war on terror.” They are deep into confronting China and Russia, even if that threatens a thermonuclear showdown in the near term. They share the agenda of imposing fascist police states to control the population. And all of this is set against the backdrop of the worst financial and economic collapse in history, and the decimation of the world’s population by old and new epidemics.

The British Crown has exploited Australia for its geostrategic goals, especially since our head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, personally sacked the elected, pro-development, pro-sovereignty Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975. I’ll summarize three aspects of this:

  • Making Australia into a miniature City of London or Wall Street;

  • Australia’s role as what a recent prime minister called a “deputy sheriff”, for the Anglo-American war build-up in the Asia/Pacific region;

  • Serving as the original spawning ground for the now worldwide movement for mass genocide, which masquerades as “environmentalism”.

…On the military side, Australia now serves as headquarters for U.S. President Obama’s infamous “Asia Pivot”, the British-directed plan for a military showdown with China. The U.S. and British military presence is expanding rapidly.

Nothing that has happened since, not Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nor China’s belligerence in the Pacific and authoritarian crackdowns on the mainland or in Hong Kong, have led to any shift away from this immutable LaRouchian – and therefore ACP – world view, or the benign eye, and even admiration, with which it regards the aspirations of the Chinese Communist Party.

 

The ACP’s anti-ASPI obsessions

The incident involving Barwick and Xu reflects the fact that the ACP, in its mostly dark vision of the universe, sees ASPI in particular as a key nemesis in Australia, invoking Shakespeare to warn readers that while “Evil liars manipulating the powerful into destructive conflicts is nothing new … tragedies like Othello were written as cautionary tales for people to learn from.” In this analogy, the part of Iago is played by ASPI.

ASPI describes itself as “an independent, non-partisan think tank that produces expert and timely advice for Australia’s strategic and defence leaders.” It was established by the Australian Government in 2001 and is partially funded by the Department of Defence.

China is certainly a key topic of interest to ASPI, which states: “The rise of China is commanding much thought across the Asia-Pacific region. While we shouldn’t rush to assume Beijing will be ‘inevitably hostile to Australia’, a more assertive China with rapidly growing military strength means a direct threat to Australian interests could develop with little notice.”

While conceding that ASPI is “an Australian Defence Department think tank, majority funded by the Australian government” the ACP charges that “it is also heavily funded by foreign governments and the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers, who have raked in massive profits from the extra sales they have made out of the dangerous war tensions they have paid ASPI to fuel.”

It should be noted that all sources of ASPI’s funding are detailed and publicly available, unlike those of the ACP. For the 2021 financial year the ACP disclosed it had received the enormous sum of almost $2.3 million. The identities of donors who give over $14,300 to a political party are required to be disclosed under Australian electoral laws. Yet not a single such donor has been disclosed by the ACP – the party’s funding sources are totally opaque.

It is a perpetual mystery how a political party that has existed for so long with such a consistently dismal record of complete electoral failure can, each year, attract such huge sums, greater than those of better known parties which have succeeded in getting representatives elected to parliament.

In Vicky Xu – a critic of the Chinese Government who has voiced her concerns about China’s human rights abuses through her work for ASPI – ACP obsessions coalesce.

The ACP is fixated on debunking ASPI as a credible source, yet ASPI is hardly alone in its accusations against China for abuse of the Uyghurs’ human rights, nor is this a subject on which the right and left disagree.

The UN’s long-awaited report accused the CCP of serious human rights violations including credible claims of crimes against humanity, including torture and rape, and forced labour.

Earlier reports include those of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Damning evidence, known as the Xinjiang Police Files, came to light when a huge cache of internal Chinese police documents was leaked. These were made available to a media consortium that included news outlets such as the BBC, Washington Post, Bloomberg, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who authenticated and reported on the documents.

In addition, the EU, the US and other nations have imposed sanctions on China over these abuses. In June 2022 the European Parliament passed a strongly worded resolution condemning China for the human rights situation in Xinjiang.

The Chinese Government continues to deny and attempt to discredit all allegations against it. The ACP, following in lockstep and obsessed with ASPI, ludicrously attempts to claim that there is not a single accurate finding in ASPI’s reports on China’s human rights abuses. For “proof” it relies on its own “experts”.

One such is Jaqueline “Jaq” James, an “independent Canberra-based lawyer and analyst [who] has done the job the mainstream punditry should have done two years ago.” According to the ACP, James “shreds” ASPI’s claims regarding Uyghur forced labour.

Quite how an individual based in Canberra is able to do this without being on the ground in Xinjiang is left unexplained. James’ paper is, however, a legal analysis: “it appears that no-one had critically analysed the report from a legal perspective, until Ms James took on the task herself”, the ACP comments.

As to her independence, a report in the Australian provides some interesting background, including that she has lectured in English for the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army.

It also appears that her father is Milton James, who wrote an article in July 2020 asserting that the Tiananmen Square massacre was a hoax.

 

The Nexus between ACP and CCP outlets

Outside of its own prolific output, the media sphere inhabited by the ACP in relation to China, is almost exclusively that which is run by the Chinese Government. However, on July 26, Barwick did manage to publish a piece arguing the US, rather than China, is the real threat to Australian sovereignty and independence on “Pearls and Irritations”, the online conspiratorial left-wing opinion site run by John Menadue, Gough Whitlam’s former private secretary (“Pearls and Irritations” is also known for frequently publishing extreme anti-Israel pieces)

Meanwhile, the China Daily came to Robert Barwick’s aid soon after SBS News reported his unfortunate La Trobe encounter with Vicky Xu.

In an article headed “Voice for Sale: A China basher breaks her silence”, Xu’s work on the “Uyghurs for Sale” report was characterised as presenting “a nasty, false picture of a government labor transfer program in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. This work of fiction was naturally harshly criticized by Chinese and international media professionals and academics.”

ASPI, it went on to say, “had apparently realized that having someone with Chinese roots dumping on her home team would add a touch of credibility to its propaganda. And Xu apparently saw the institute as a useful vehicle for promoting her name and her message.”

The Global Times published a piece optimistically headed “Objective, just voices about Xinjiang on the rise: China’s Foreign Ministry”, in which it cited, amongst others, the ACP’s weekly publication, Australian Alert Service, as having pointed out the allegedly baseless nature of accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang.

In addition, the China News Service praised the Australian Alert Service for revealing “the truth about the fraudulent Xinjiang-related ‘databases’ and the so-called ‘witness testimonies’ and, with abundant facts and figures, exposed the real mastermind behind them.”

The ACP even received a pat on the back from the Chinese Embassy in South Africa for debunking anti-China smears.

“Robbie” Barwick, as he is commonly known, also appears in a YouTube video with social media influencer Li Jingjing. On Twitter she describes herself as “a traveler, a journalist, a Chinese who try to show the sides of the story that many media left out. Anti-imperialism & anti-bias. Views are my own.” However, that doesn’t stop Twitter identifying her account as “China state-affiliated media”.

Like any political party, the ACP is partial to publicity, and thanks to SBS News it received some rare attention from mainstream media. But the story about Barwick’s alleged harassment of Xu was likely not the kind it wanted.

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