Australia’s Future Fund has sent A$1.5 billion offshore to prop up Chinese companies infamous for surveillance and censorship, prompting accusations it is financing a strategic enemy and undermining sovereignty.
A list of equities owned by the $180 billion sovereign wealth fund revealed it had invested $606 million into Tencent Holdings, which owns the WeChat messaging app.
The fund had also sunk $505 million into Alibaba, the tech giant started by disappeared Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, $195 million into the China Construction Bank Corporation, $98 million into Yum China Holdings, and $94 million into the Ping An Insurance Group Co of China.
The list, which was buried on the Future Fund’s website, detailed its biggest shareholdings and has not been updated since June 2020.
Tencent’s WeChat is before the courts in the United States over allegations the CCP is using it to censor and surveil US citizens and has drawn accusations it is being used by the CCP to control Australian media outlets.
In 2020, Foreign Policy revealed the CIA believed Tencent had received funding from the CCP’s Ministry of State Security when it was building monitoring technology for the so-called Great Firewall.
For the CCP’s 19th National Congress, Tencent released an app called “Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech”, in which players had 19 seconds to generate as many claps as possible for the Chinese dictator.
Alibaba – a company that was created by the CCP under “cloak and dagger secrecy” – has drawn criticism for developing facial recognition software so its clients can identify and censor the faces of Uighurs.
The Future Fund has also funnelled $803 million into tech giants Facebook and Alphabet Inc (the conglomerate that owns Google and YouTube), companies that have recently been embroiled in their own censorship controversies.
Political lobby group Advance Australia seized on the revelations to criticise the Commonwealth Government for funding massive offshore corporations to peddle products that are used by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on Australians, while small business struggles amid the pandemic.
Advance Australia chief executive Matthew Sheahan demanded Treasurer Josh Frydenberg immediately order the repatriation of taxpayers’ dollars invested in Chinese companies.
“Turns out, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund is financing our enemies to undermine our sovereignty,” he said.
“Rather than investing in Australian nation-building companies, the Future Fund is financing Beijing controlled outfits that are actively involved in economic, cyber and information warfare against us.”
Mr Sheahan also slammed the Future Fund’s investment in US tech giants with a track record of censorship.
“While Facebook and YouTube have been busy censoring Australians by banning Sky News for a week and deleting the Facebook accounts of every Australian news website, our government has been giving them cash hand over fist,” he said.
“Australians will be outraged that their tax dollars are funding these companies.
“It’s time for Mr Frydenberg to bring these billions home and put them to work on Australian soil, supporting Australian jobs for Australian workers.”
Mr Sheahan demanded that the Future Fund Board of Guardians publish real-time information on all its investments, not just the top 100 direct listed equity holdings.