‘From the Honest History vault: Lest We Forget Dr Chau Chak Wing, the War Memorial’s Chinese-Australian connection’, Honest History, 27 November 2019
Update 3 February 2021: Dr Chau Chak Wing wins defamation case against ABC and Nine Newspapers, but finds documents have been tabled in Parliament about aspects of the case.
The current brouhaha over alleged Chinese spying-related funny business in Australia reminds us of previous episodes of a somewhat like character. There was Huang Xiangmo, the wealthy and deep-pocketed property developer and political donor, now banished from our shores. Mr Huang’s permanent residency was cancelled on advice from ASIO about the danger of interference with our politics. The Australian Taxation Office is chasing Mr Huang for a good deal of unpaid tax, about $A140 million, to be precise.
Also big on political donations, donations to universities, and also flagged by ASIO in the past, despite him being an Australian citizen, is Dr Chau Chak Wing. Andrew Hastie MP mentioned Dr Chau in Parliament and Clive Hamilton’s book, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, gives him a run.
Despite these honourable mentions, Dr Chau has tended to fly under the radar a little compared with Mr Huang. On the other hand, he is well known at the Australian War Memorial as a generous benefactor. We summarised his connections with the Memorial here, with some links to earlier material, including references to a Four Corners-Fairfax program.
Dr Chau put his money into the production of a booklet on Chinese-Australian servicemen, allowing it to be sold very cheaply in the Memorial Shop. We said this about the book:
The book (available in paperback from the Memorial shop for just $2.99) is well meant and has some nice photographs of soldiers and their families, but is often risible and cringe-making. For example, referring to Chinese-Australian enlistment in World War I, the book says “some of the Chinese young guys were luckily enlisted because new bills of 1915 and 1917 lowed requirement of height and circumference to new soldiers”.
Dr Chau also featured in a story about how the Australian War Memorial, according to its Director, Dr Brendan Nelson, does not offer naming rights to its corporate donors. Despite this disclaimer, Dr Chau’s company Kingold is recognised in the Memorial’s Kingold Education and Media Centre, to set up which Dr Chau donated $500 000. (It took a lot of ferreting by Honest History and Sally Whyte of Fairfax for this figure to come to light.)
Dr Chau’s good works for the Memorial led to him being made a Fellow of the Memorial in 2015 (page 47). His name and Kingold’s appear on the wall at the entrance to the Memorial. Dr Chau was said to be worth $US1000 million in 2015, he bought a house in Sydney from James Packer for $A70 million, and he networks a lot, including with China’s President Xi Jinping. His doctorate is an honorary one from Keuka College in upstate New York, whose motto is ‘Believe in what we can do together’.
One possible reason for Dr Chau being less prominent in the Australian media than Mr Huang is the former’s tendency to sue. We hasten to add in conclusion that none of the above implies that Dr Chau has been charged with or has committed any crime. We agree with the position taken in 2018 by Director Nelson, as paraphrased by David Wroe in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘unless the businessman was convicted of an offence, the institution would not strip him of his fellowship, nor remove his company’s name from an education centre’.