Flemish far-right politician worked on behalf of China, investigation finds

Flemish far-right politician Filip Dewinter worked on behalf of China for years, an investigation by Belgian media has revealed. Documents show the Vlaams Belang figurehead collaborated with a Chinese spy and acted as a senior political advisor.

Media outlets Apache and Humo were able to obtain expense reports and letters showing that Dewinter was politically recruited and paid by the Chinese Communist Party.

Dewinter had previously been linked to Changchun Shao, who was deported from Belgium in 2017 for espionage. It was later revealed that Dewinter had lobbied to stop his deportation. 

Tangle of China-funded NGOs

In late 2023, it emerged that fellow Vlaams Belang politician Frank Creyelman had apparently been involved in espionage for China. At the time, Dewinter said he had only done cultural and business advocacy for Changchun Shao.

Documents published by Humo and Apache on Monday show that Dewinter was deliberately politically recruited through a tangle of Belgian companies and non-profit organisations funded by China to the tune of hundreds of thousands of euros. Creyelman also features prominently in Shao's entourage.

Expense reports show that Dewinter had dinner with far-right MEPs in preparation for a visit by a delegation from the CAIFC

A 2016 expense report for a non-profit organisation under Shao's de facto management shows that Dewinter had dinner with far-right MEPs in preparation for a visit by a delegation from the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC). According to experts, the CAIFC operates as a Chinese intelligence agency.

'Nothing to do with politics'

According to Dewinter, these dinners had nothing to do with politics. However, other expense reports show that he frequently dined with far-right parties as a political lobbyist, paid for by the Chinese Communist Party. 

Dewinter denies most of the allegations, saying he was unaware that the CAIFC is a de facto intelligence agency

In 2016, Dewinter wrote a letter inviting Cheng Guoping, the vice-chair of the CAIFC, to prepare a congress and further strengthen ties. He signed the letter as the "senior political advisor" of the Silk Road Peace Award Foundation, one of the non-profit organisations around Shao.

Dewinter denies most of the allegations, saying he was unaware that the CAIFC was a de facto intelligence agency. He admits inviting a Syrian ambassador to Shao's house for coffee, but said it had nothing to do with politics. 

'Attempt to damage Vlaams Belang'

In his own words, Dewinter was never a political advisor and was, at most, somewhat naive. He also stresses that the Western view of China was different then than it is now, and that he did not know that Shao was a Chinese spy until late 2017, after his expulsion.

The party said the public prosecutor had cleared Dewinter in the matter

A spokesperson for Vlaams Belang said that Humo and Apache's article was "old news" and "nothing more than another attempt to damage Vlaams Belang". 

The party said the public prosecutor had cleared Dewinter in the matter and that the deontological committee of the Flemish parliament had ruled earlier this year that there was nothing to reproach Dewinter for.


#FlandersNewsService | Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang during a plenary session of the Flemish Parliament in January 2024 © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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