Dozens of Suva families are gathering this morning at the Yue Lai hotel and restaurant in Flagstaff for its celebrated yum cha. Yet without knowing that at the same time (1030 Sunday Fiji time) influential members of the Chinese community in Fiji have been summoned to a meeting in another part of the building to discuss how to thwart the United States and the other democracies as they oppose Beijing’s hard-line position on Taiwan.
As the correspondence Grubsheet publishes today reveals, the gathering has been called by the owner of the Yue Lai, Zhao Fugang, who is a suspected agent of influence of the Chinese Communist Party and a long-standing friend and associate of the Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama.
Zhao Fugang is said to be part of an international network of unofficial representatives of the Chinese government who act outside official Chinese channels but promote the interests of Beijing. While posing as a local Chinese businessman in Fiji ostensibly acting to advance his own interests, his secret role is to advance the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.
Over many years, he has operated below the radar cultivating Frank Bainimarama and a range of other local identities such as the former Foreign Minister and known Beijing sympathiser, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. He is so close to the Prime Minister that Bainimarama regards him as a personal friend and they regularly meet to drink whisky. At these meetings – allege Grubsheet sources – Zhao Fugang passes cash to Frank Bainimarama raised from the Chinese community in Fiji.
Where this cash ends up isn’t clear. But Grubsheet understands from multiple sources that Zhao Fugang has told Chinese community members that the money is for the FijiFirst Party. And that his demands on them have intensified with the approaching election. According to these community members, Zhao Fugang claims that Frank Bainimarama has assured him that FijiFirst will win the election because he, Bainimarama, has the backing of the military.
Whatever the truth of these allegations, we now have conclusive proof that Zhao Fugang – while posing as a hotel and restaurant operator – is also acting as an official Chinese cheerleader in Fiji. Official because there is no way that he can do otherwise without Beijing’s imprimatur given the following events.
Last week, Zhao Fugang – someone with no official status whatsoever -marked the 95th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1 1927 with a reception at the Yue Lai restaurant that was attended not only by the Chinese Ambassador to Fiji, Qian Bo, but by representatives of the cream of the Fijian military and civil establishment.
Zhao Fugang was able to attract a stellar guest list that included the Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho, the doyenne of the Chinese community in Fiji, Jenny Seeto, and sundry military officers and members of the local glitterati. The accompanying photos are proof of the influence he wields on behalf of the Chinese government and the contacts he has developed in both the government, military and civilian hierarchy in Fiji.
The PLA anniversary celebration at the Yue Lai took place against the backdrop of unprecedented international tension as China flexed its muscles over the visit to Taiwan of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. It triggered the biggest display of Chinese military aggression against Taiwan in the six decades since the Chang Kai Shek regime fled to the island after its defeat in the civil war against the communist forces of Mao Tse Tung. In a week during which prominent Fijians enjoyed Zhao Fugang’s hospitality at the Yue Lai and were photographed with their host, China fired ballistic missiles into Taiwanese airspace and mounted an effective naval blockade of the island in defiance of international law.
Yet within days, the Chinese “sleeper” at the Yue Lai restaurant has also broken cover to actively encourage the Chinese community in Fiji to condemn the US and support Beijing in its effort to suppress any expression of independence by Taiwan. And he does so in the following leaked letter from a group calling itself the “Promotion of China Re-unification Society” in Fiji.
The sources of this leak are naturally fearful of Beijing’s long reach. But this is what Zhao Fugang wrote to community members inviting them to the meeting at the Yue Lai restaurant that is about to take place this morning. (10.30am Sunday August 7):
“We strongly condemned Pelosi, the speaker of the US Congress, for his visit (sic) to Taiwan, China, despite China’s firm opposition! This move seriously violates the one China principle and the provisions of the three Sino US joint communiques, and seriously violates the basic norms of international relations. The US side’s treachery on the Taiwan issue is contemptible and can only further ruin the US national credibility. Some politicians in the United States only care about their own interests, openly play with fire and burn themselves on the Taiwan issue, regardless of the Chinese people and more than 1.4 billion Chinese people as enemies, there will never be a good end!!
Since ancient times, Taiwan has been an inalienable part of Chinese territory. There is only one China in the world, and the government of the people’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing the whole of China. It is recognized by the overwhelming majority of countries and leaders in the world, and it is the basic norms and general consensus of international relations. China’s reunification is the common aspiration of the Chinese people all over the world. The Chinese people at home and abroad are resolutely opposed to all attempts and acts to split China, and are resolutely opposed to any external forces interfering in the process of China’s peaceful reunification.
We overseas Chinese in Fiji strongly condemn Pelosi’s shameless act of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and challenging the whole Chinese people! Firmly support the determination, will and action of the Chinese government to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity!!
It is a serious provocation against China. Now overseas Chinese from all countries have expressed dissatisfaction and protest! Therefore, I suggest that a peace and reunification meeting be held in Yuelai at 10 a.m. this Sunday to discuss condemning the US behaviour… Please join us.
Thank you for your support. Zhao Fugang”
Grubsheet challenges Zhao Fugang’s friend and long-time crony, Frank Bainimarama, to answer the following questions:
1/ What precisely is your relationship with the owner of the Yue Lai restaurant, Zhao Fugang?
2/ How much money have you received from Zhao Fugang over the years and to what purposes has this been used?
3/ Is it true that Zhao Fugang has been fund raising for the FijiFirst Party for the coming election and that you have told him that you will win because you have the backing of the RFMF?
4/ Do Zhao Fugang’s activities in Fiji on behalf of the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party have your approval and blessing?
The Commissioner of Police, Sitiveni Qiliho, also needs to answer the following questions:
1/ Why did you attend the function at the Yue Lai last week at which you were photographed with Zhao Fugang?
2/ What is the extent of your relationship with Zhao Fugang and the Chinese Government?
3/ Precisely what is the role of the Chinese State Security officials who have been seconded to your office and what influence do they have on you and the operations of the Fiji Police?
4/ Why did you choose to take no action against officials of the Chinese embassy when they assaulted a representative of the Taiwanese government at a Taiwanese National Day reception at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva in October 2020?
These are questions not only of vital importance for the integrity of the State and its institutions but of much wider concern in the light of Chinese assertiveness in the Pacific, such as in Solomon Islands, and Beijing’s escalating belligerence towards Taiwan.
In addition to his intimate relationship with Zhao Fugang, we know that Frank Bainimarama also has a close relationship with the Chinese Ambassador to Fiji, Qian Bo. This is to the extent of the Ambassador being present behind the scenes by the PM’s side when he launched an unprecedented public attack on the then Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu in October 2019 (photo above).
At the end of a week in which Frank Bainimarama has been in Washington meeting the US Vice President, Kamala Harris, and top American security officials, the Prime Minister has some serious explaining to do. Not only about the allegations that he has been receiving money from an agent of the Chinese government but whether he has been playing a double game – pretending on the one hand to be supporting the US and the other democracies while all along being in the pocket of the Chinese.
China has repeatedly declared that it wants to establish Chinese control over Taiwan and wants to become the most powerful nation in the world. It thumbs its nose at international law and we are now closer to war than ever before as it blockades Taiwan and threatens it with ballistic missiles.
Nancy Pelosi laid out the issues herself when she wrote in the Washington Post: “The Chinese Communist Party’s brutal crackdown against Hong Kong’s political freedoms and human rights – even arresting Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen – cast the promise of ‘one country two systems’ into the dustbin. In Tibet, the CCP has led a campaign to erase the Tibetan people’s language, culture, religion and identity. In Xinjiang, Beijing is perpetrating genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minorities. And throughout the country, the CCP targets and arrests activists, religious freedom leaders and others who dare to defy the regime. We cannot stand by as the CCP threatens Taiwan – and democracy itself.”
Now is not the time to appease the aggressor. The sight of Fijians celebrating the instrument of Chinese aggression – the People’s Liberation Army – at a function in Suva is disturbing enough. Yet even more disturbing is ample evidence of a Prime Minister who is sympathetic to China and is willing to take its money. The Fijian people expect Frank Bainimarama to make a stand on their behalf for democracy and the rule of law. And if he won’t do so, he is unfit to lead and deserves to be ousted at the coming election on this issue alone.
NOTE: If anyone has further information and knows who might have responded to Zhao Fugang’s invitation and attended the meeting at Yue Lai, please message me in confidence.)