Matthew Ng and his daughter Isabella. Photo: SuppliedThe first Australian to benefit from a prisoner swap deal with China is asking to be released on “mercy” grounds after the death of his daughter, posing a serious test for the diplomatic relationship.
Matthew Ng, a businessman who was backed by the Packer and Lowy families and was jailed during a shake-down of his $100 million travel business, was transferred in December from Guangzhou to Australia, where he is serving out his 10-year sentence in St Heliers Correction Centre in Muswellbrook, NSW.
Many of the 70 other Australians in Chinese jails, including the Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu and 10 prisoners on drugs charges who could potentially face the death penalty, are relying on him serving out his sentence as agreed with China to improve their own chances of an early transfer home. Mr Ng was warned by a senior Chinese official before he left that their fates depended on him keeping quiet.
The dilemma posed by Mr Ng’s mercy request comes as another Australian prisoner, Charlotte Chou, recently released from China has detailed how Australian diplomats stood by while Chinese police brazenly ignored obligations to Australia under a consular agreement.
Mr Ng’s deepest troubles, however, began after returning home, when he was first told that his daughter had died two years earlier after battling depression and anorexia triggered by his conviction.
He wants his freedom to prevent further damage to his marriage and three surviving children, who are struggling to piece their lives back together in western Sydney.
He is working with lawyer Tom Lennox and former Supreme Court judge Greg James, QC, on an application for Attorney-General George Brandis to advise the Governor-General to exercise his “royal prerogative of mercy” under prisoner transfer legislation.
If a full pardon is not politically feasible, Mr Ng hopes to be moved to the lowest possible security settings, which would enable him to work and visit his family before qualifying for parole in August next year.
Mr Brandis declined to comment on the delicate political, economic and diplomatic balancing act that he will be asked to weigh.
But a Chinese official, Yang Jianming, had warned Mr Ng: “You have been chosen as the first because of the interest shown by the Australian Government and media, and your conduct is important to the future of Australia-China judicial co-operation. We will watch you very closely.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.