The Australian on Sunday reported on a leaked database allegedly of nearly 2 million members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who have infiltrated major corporations and academic institutions around the world.
Among those named in the report are vital American companies like Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, Pfizer, and QualComm that are part of government and military supply chains.
According to the Australian, the database was pulled from a server in Shanghai by Chinese dissidents and leaked in September to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a group of legislators from countries around the world, including Australia, Europe, Japan, and the United States. The American members are Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The alliance has been active on issues such as Chinese persecution of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang province, China blocking Taiwan from joining the World Health Organization, and China’s efforts to intimidate Australia.
IPAC, in turn, provided the Chinese database to media organizations in Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Sweden. The media organizations analyzed the data for two months, leading up to the Australian publishing its story Sunday.
“It is the first time a list of this scale has been leaked and it unveils the secrecy shrouding CCP operations and exposes how party branches are embedded in some of the world’s biggest companies, with intelligence experts warning China is using the structure to achieve global dominance,” the Australian wrote.
The report quoted an unnamed Australian intelligence officer who described CCP penetration of foreign businesses, governments, and influential organizations as a “totally unacceptable security risk.”
“In some cases, they go beyond being a security risk, and actually do the bidding of China in attempting to influence governments overseas. The recent raids in Sydney are an example of this,” the source said.
This was a reference to raids conducted over the summer by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), Australia’s primary national security agency, as part of an investigation into Chinese Communist Party influence over Australian politics.
“Allowing members of the CCP to work for such companies risks their stealing technology, providing intelligence to China on forthcoming weapons systems and capabilities, or on force structures built around those capabilities,” the Australian intelligence officer warned.
“Imagine if a CCP member was allowed to work on the new Australian submarine project, and got technical data on the performance of the subs. This would give the Chinese navy a massive advantage and put Australian lives at risk,” the source said, referring to Australia’s plan to counter Chinese naval power by doubling the size of its submarine fleet.
Sharri Markson, an author of the Australian’s report and also a Sky News Australia host, told Sky News on Sunday that the database contains personal details about 1.95 million CCP members plus 79,000 branches of the Chinese Communist Party, many of them established inside foreign companies.
“Communist Party branches have been set up inside western companies, allowing the infiltration of those companies by CCP members — who, if called on, are answerable directly to the Communist Party, to the Chairman, the president himself,” Markson said, meaning Chinese dictator Xi Jinping.
Markson said the leaked database will embarrass Xi by revealing “how the Party operates” under his rule, and will also “embarrass some global companies who appear to have no plan in place to protect their intellectual property from theft, from economic espionage.”
Markson added there is no outstanding evidence that the CCP members listed in the database have “committed espionage.” She said the chief concern for Australian officials and corporate executives is if the penetrated companies and organizations are aware they have large numbers of active Communist Party members on their payrolls, and if “any steps have been taken to protect their data and people.”
Asia News International (ANI) listed some of the U.S. companies of concern, beginning with Boeing, which had 287 CCP members working for its 21 Chinese branches in 2016:
US company QualComm, which primarily makes hardware for intelligence and quantum computing globally and has patents on computer chips all around the world, including Australia, had 229 CCP members.
In its report, The Australian revealed that the company Hewlett-Packard has 390 CCP members in 14 branches across its China operations, while ANZ Bank had 23 members listed in one branch in its Chinese operations.
Moreover, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca, the front-runners in making the COVID-19 [coronavirus] vaccine, also have CCP members working for them. While Pfizer includes 69 members of the communist party workers in its Chinese subsidiary, AstraZeneca has 54 members.
ANI noted that Germany’s Volkswagen, which has 5,700 CCP members working for its 131 branches, recently insisted that it will continue operations in Xinjiang province, where the Chinese government has imprisoned millions of Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. Volkswagen rejected heavy pressure to shut down its Xinjiang facility in November, saying it could find no evidence of forced labor being used at the plant.
The Australian did not print the names of the people in the database, only the companies and institutions they work for, but other media organizations and analysts have named a few of them. Australia’s News.com said Monday that one of the CCP members on the list is Chen Hong, a scholar based in Shanghai whose Australian visa was revoked in September after ASIO identified him as a possible security risk.
“Professor Chen has criticized Australia in articles for the state-run Global Times newspaper, describing the COVID-19 travel ban as racist and accusing the country of ‘stabbing China in the back’ over Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus,” News.com recalled.
Fox News noted Monday that, based on the Australian’s database report, at least ten foreign consulates in Shanghai have CCP members working in positions ranging from clerks to senior political and economic advisers, including the U.S. and U.K. consulates.
Fox News also tied the database to the large number of CCP operatives discovered at American universities, a situation that prompted the shuttering of the Chinese consulate in Houston, the revelation in August of a massive Chinese intelligence operation to steal biomedical and artificial intelligence research, the announcement of 1,000 Chinese academic and research visas revoked by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in September, and last week’s revelation of ties between Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) of the House Intelligence Committee and a Chinese spy.
The implication of the Fox News piece is that some of the Trump administration’s most aggressive moves against Chinese influence and espionage could have been guided by the leaked database, which dates back to 2016.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) of the Homeland Security Committee told the New York Post on Sunday that the Australian’s revelations are “just more evidence of the extent to which the CCP has successfully infiltrated American companies and government.”
“CCP agents have no place in US government facilities, and this report should serve as a much-needed wake-up call to Washington, D.C., and corporate executives, who continue to welcome the Chinese government with open arms,” Hawley said.
As the New York Post observed, every CCP member swears a solemn oath to “fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the party and the people, and never betray the party [and] guard party secrets, be loyal to the party.”
China’s state-run Global Times quickly sought to dismiss the Australian’s reporting, denouncing its coverage as a “witch hunt” on Monday and castigating foreign media for ignoring the “massive privacy breach” represented by the database.
The Global Times quoted none other than Chen Hong — the academic mentioned above who was deemed a security risk by ASIO — claiming the database is “complete erroneous” and insisting he personally has never been a member of the CCP. A few other Chinese employees of foreign firms told the Global Times they are indeed CCP members but insisted this has no bearing on their reliability or loyalty to their employers.