Prominent Australian lawmaker quits over claims of China links


Posted at Dec 12 2017 09:51 AM

Australian opposition Senator Sam Dastyari leaves the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, December 5, 2017. Reuters

SYDNEY - Prominent Australian opposition Senator Sam Dastyari said on Tuesday he would resign from parliament after a series of allegations emerged about his links with Chinese-aligned interests in Australia.

Relations between Australia and China have become strained since Canberra announced last week it would ban foreign political donations as part of a crackdown aimed at preventing external influence in domestic politics.

In announcing the ban, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull specifically singled out China, citing "disturbing reports about Chinese influence".

China hit back, with the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily describing media reports about Chinese interference as "racist" and "paranoid".

Dastyari, widely viewed as a rising star of the centre-left Labor opposition party, has been under fire since domestic media reported he had sought to encourage the party's deputy leader not to meet a Chinese pro-democracy activist opposed to Beijing's rule in Hong Kong in 2015.

"Today, after much reflection, I've decided that the best service I can render to the federal parliamentary Labor Party is to not return to the Senate in 2018," Dastyari told reporters in Sydney.

The latest allegations came just days after Dastyari was said to have warned Chinese political donor Huang Xiangmo that his phone might be tapped.

Dastyari had already quit some senior Labor positions after a tape surfaced of him appearing to endorse China's contentious expansion in disputed areas of the South China Sea, against his party's platform. The tape showed him standing next to Huang.