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One of Virgin Australia’s biggest owners shifted hundreds of millions of tonnes of protective gear stripped from stores and stockpiles across the globe in the first two months of the year, after the Chinese Government ordered a international buy-up of the now scarce life saving materials.

It can be revealed Chinese Conglomerate HNA Group, used Hainan Airlines, which it fully owns, as a “green channel” which flew the supplies to China free of charge from countries across the world, including Australia, the US and the UK.

The bulk of the movements were in January and February, when face masks were already scarce in Australia because of the ongoing bushfire crisis.

HNA Group owns about 20 per cent of Virgin Australia and has made headlines recently because it, and Virgin’s other four major foreign owners, have refused to provide the Virgin Australia with any assistance at all, despite the struggling airline seeking a $1.4 billion bailout from Australian taxpayers.

A Chinese media report from January 25 (translated and shown below) show “N95 level masks, medical protective clothing, goggles and other emergency relief materials” sourced from Chinese organisations in North America had been “shipped back to China for free via Hainan Airlines flights”.

The report states “each overseas office of Hainan Airlines has opened a dedicated line to handle related assistance needs”, and provides the contact details of each of Hainan’s international offices including in Sydney, Melbourne, London and Rome.

The story is accompanied with a photograph of a Hainan jet and ground crew handling large boxes captioned: “Hainan Airlines assisted in free shipping of overseas relief materials”.

Between January 24, when the Chinese Government called for the mass buy-up, and February 29, almost $2 billion worth of safety medical supplies were taken to China and passed through customs there, according to official data.


The story in Chinese media from January 25 which reported HNA’s ties to the airlift operation


The Sydney Morning Herald last week reported that Data from National Customs in China shows the shipments comprised of 2.46 billion pieces of epidemic prevention and control materials, including just over 2 billion face masks (2.02 billion) and 25.38 million pieces of protecting clothing, such as hazmat suits. The total value was recorded as 8.2 billion yuan (AUD$1.9 billion).

The revelations come amid national outrage over the shortage of medical supplies in Australia, with reports this week that doctors and medical professionals here are desperate for supplies, with many having just a few days worth of supplies remaining.

Emergency department heads and other medical professionals have reported frantic trips to Bunnings and other retail outlets to source protective wear because the Federal Government has failed to meet the demand.

Last week the Federal Government announced it would introduce laws including up to five years’ imprisonment for people exporting face masks, hand sanitiser and other safety supplies in a bid to prevent the activity.

The Chinese Government, and its supporters, have argued the mass buy up of the world’s supplies came when the China was at the epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis.

However some security experts say China exploited its knowledge regarding the severity and contagiousness of COVID-19 and has used the situation to both profiteer, by allowing businesses to sell protective supplies back to foreign countries at vastly inflated prices, and to push its “soft power” influence agenda by delivering goods “free” to a number of countries.

Just after 9pm last night a Suparna Airlines cargo flight from Wuhan touched down at Sydney airport, the first flight from Wuhan, the source of the COVID-19 outbreak, since January.

While some proponents of the Chinese Government have sought to promote the flight as evidence of Beijing helping to save the world from COVID-19, experts have said the flight, also connected to HNA, was organised by China’s foreign espionage and interference group United Front.

ANU security expert Geoff Wade reported the Suparna Airlines cargo flights was organised by “United Front figure Kuang Yuanping”

“After Australia media firestorm, united front figure Kuang Yuanping organises Suparna Airlines (under HNA Group) to fly 50 cubic metres of face masks and PPE to Sydney from Wuhan on behalf of Aust Hubei Assoc & Jointown Pharmaceutical,” Wade reported on social media this morning (below).


ANU expert Geoff Wade’s social media post connecting United Front to last night’s Wuhan Shipment


Last week The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Chinese government-run conglomerate Poly Group, organised a campaign in Australia to purchase as much safety equipment as possible during January and February.

It reports that Poly in Sydney, in a message on January 25 – just as the Chinese Communist Party called for worldwide action – called on the “team” to buy up masks from their local chemists across Sydney and Melbourne, for them to be shipped to China.

Poly Group, as well as being a property developer in Sydney and Melbourne, is a global arms dealer for the Chinese Government, and was formerly a front for China’s PLA.

Virgin Australia is 91 per cent foreign-owned, but despite that ownership the airline and its CEO Paul Scurrah are aggressively pushing the Federal Government to provide it with a $1.4bn bailout funded by Australian taxpayers.

The airline has doubled down on its calls for public aid, with Scurrah appearing in media this week calling for taxpayer assistance.

As previously reported, Sydney airline consultancy CAPA last week published a report on Virgin which it claimed was “independent” but which was instead full of glaring factual errors, all in favour of Virgin’s bid for its $1.4bn taxpayer bailout.

Those opposing Virgin Australia’s bid for a bailout argue the airline should not be provided with a handout for numerous reasons, with many asking why the taxpayer is being asked to foot the bill when Virgin Australia’s major owners, who would directly benefit from any bailout, have refused to provide any assistance.

Virgin Australia is 20% owned by HNA Group, 20 per cent by Chinese conglomerate Nanshan Group, 20% owned by Singapore government sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, 21% by the Abu Dhabi government and 10% by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.


Virgin’s five major shareholders. Source: Bloomberg

The latest accounts of the Singapore Government’s Temasek Holdings show it has S$313bn (AUD$364bn) in total assets, which is 1,300 times its share of the $1.4bn sought by Virgin Australia, based on its stake in Virgin Australia.

Temasek has more in assets that the Federal Government has spent in all its “unprecedented” COVID-19 stimulus packages combined, its accounts showing that 36 percent of its assets are liquid, such as held in the form of cash or “cash equivalents”, representing A$131bn.

This article first appeared at

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