Anger over Beijing’s backyard blitz in Adelaide

Anger over Beijing’s backyard blitz in Adelaide. By David Penberthy.

China’s reputation as an unpleasant neighbour is being played out in a leafy Adelaide eastern suburb where fed-up residents are sharing horror stories of life living next door to Beijing’s sprawling consular compound.

They include security cameras popping up overnight in front of private homes, residential fences being knocked over without warning, NBN cables severed, construction materials left lying on the streets, Chinese labourers using loud building equipment on Sundays, even a drone flying above a group of residents before landing back inside the consulate. …

This is the consulate that SA senator Rex Patrick has accused of spying, saying that its estimated dozen staff should not be allowed to operate in the state that is home to Australia’s defence and space industries. Liberal senator Alex Antic has also questioned why South Australia — which only has two other consulates, Greece and Italy, that are staffed by foreign nationals — should host this ­“excessively large” consulate. …

The Weekend Australian spent two days this week talking to residents of Fourth and Fifth Avenue and with just one exception every household had strong complaints about the conduct of the consulate and the appropriateness of having such a vast complex in the middle of suburbia.

While interviewing the residents two staff from the consulate came out and asked The Weekend Australian whether we had permission from either the consulate or police to talk to the residents, to which we replied we were standing on a public Australian street and free to talk to whomever we liked. …

After spending about seven hours knocking on more than 30 doors in the two streets, The Weekend Australian could find just one resident who had no complaints with the consulate. …

How would you like this?

The consulate — which neighbours say predominantly uses Chinese nationals as labourers — installed an ugly 3m-high concrete wall along Sharon and John’s rear boundary with a large sensor or camera at one end peering into their yard. …

John says the recurring building work at the consulate over the past two years meant his NBN kept dropping out, and he initially did not know why.

“I got onto Telstra and they eventually worked out they just kept cutting through the cable next door with all the construction going on, but we weren’t ­allowed in there to fix it for security reasons, so I just shelled out the money myself to put in a satellite for my internet,” John said. …

“There are people working here around the clock and it sounds like the only tool they’ve got is an angle grinder,” he says. “They make a hell of a racket and they leave all their building materials lying on the footpath. They just think they can do whatever they like. That big shed inside there next to the wall only popped up a few weeks back. No development approval required.”

A little bit of China in Adelaide, keeping watch over our defense establishment.