Australia revokes visa of prominent Chinese businessman

SYDNEY: Australia has revoked the visa of a prominent Chinese businessman and political donor who has in the past been linked to a row about the promotion of Chinese interests, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Huang Xiangmo is unable to return to his Sydney home after the government rejected his application for citizenship and revoked his residence visa while he was overseas, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper did not report a reason for the decision but it cited the Ministry for Home Affairs, which oversees visa applications, as saying Huang was "unfit" for residency.

A ministry representative and a spokeswoman for Minister for Immigration David Coleman both declined to comment.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, asked about Huang, who had in recent years emerged as one of Australia's biggest political donors, said he would not comment on a "sensitive matter".

"The government has always acted consistent with the advice that we receive and that's what has happened on this occasion," he told reporters.

Huang, who founded the Chinese property developer Yuhu, was not available for comment. The newspaper said he went to Thailand last month and it was not clear where he was on Wednesday.

The case comes as Australia and China seek to repair ties that have been strained since 2017, when Australia accused China of meddling in its domestic affairs. China denied doing so.

Despite the denials, Australia passed a series of tough laws designed to limit offshore influence, legislation widely seen as aimed at China.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), citing unidentified sources, said Huang would not be allowed to re-enter Australia.

Huang rose to prominence after an influential opposition lawmaker was in 2017 forced to resign after allegations emerged that he was linked to Chinese-aligned interests.

The opposition member, Sam Dastyari, sought to encourage a senior politician not to meet a Chinese pro-democracy activist opposed to Beijing's rule in Hong Kong in 2015.

Dastyari was also recorded as warning Huang that his phone may be tapped.

Dastyari also appeared on a video tape, standing next to Huang, appearing to endorse China's contentious expansion in disputed areas of the South China Sea, against his party’s platform.

Morrison, asked later about money that Huang had donated, referred to the law introduced to ban foreign donations.

"The actions we've been taking in relation to this gentleman, that's based on information that exists today," Morrison said. He did not elaborate.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne declined to comment on the details of Huang's case.

"I don't expect it to be the subject of a bilateral discussion," Payne told the ABC when asked if she feared the issue would have an impact on relations with China.

"We have a good relationship with mutual respect."

In 2018, Huang's Yuhu announced the purchase for nearly A$1 billion ($715 million) for two Australian projects owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.