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Foreigners banned from Australian parliament internships over Chinese spy worries

Lawmakers raised concerns over potential for Chinese students to use their position to gain access to sensitive information

Parliament House, Canberra.

Parliament House, Canberra. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Australian National University (ANU) has banned foreign students from taking part in its internship program with federal lawmakers, amid rising concerns from lawmakers over security risks associated with Chinese students on July 11.

Lawmakers are still able to offer informal internships to non-Australian citizens.

The ANU offers undergraduate students a semester-long federal parliament internship program for those interested in politics. The program is course credit redeemable and many other Australian universities have a similar program at the state level.

According to the Australian Financial Review, a number of lawmakers have raised concerns over potential security risks involving Chinese students using their position in the program to gain access to sensitive information.

New Zealand Member of Parliament, Jian Yang participated in the internship program in 1994, working with the Australian Senate's foreign affairs committee only one year after working as a lecturer at a Chinese spy school, according to an investigation by the New Zealand Herald.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Malcolm Davis told the AFR that care should be taken before allowing foreign nationals behind the scenes of Parliament House.

In December 2017, Chinese students occupied 43.3 percent of Australia's total foreign student population, numbering more than 166,000 in total, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ANU is arguably Australia's most prestigious university and is ranked 24th best university in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings.