Chinese Company Buys Australian Island Then Bans Australians From It

A Chinese developer has bought an Australian Island and is now preventing Australians from setting foot on it, much to the frustration of locals and tourists.

A portion of Keswick Island, a potential tourist hotspot, was bought by China Bloom, who residents say is stopping locals from accessing the slice of paradise. They claim that the company has stopped them from accessing beaches, banned their boats from reaching the island and even prevented access to the island's airstrip.

Families also say that the company is killing tourism to the island as they have been banned from renting their properties or advertising them to tourists on Airbnb.

"I just don't think they want Australians on the island," former resident Julie Willis told Australian news program A Current Affair. "I think that they want to have this island solely for the use of the Chinese tourism market."

Willis and her partner Robert Lee say that their problems were further compounded when they were told by the developer they had three days in February to vacate the property they had been renting without a problem for six years. The couple then tried to purchase a property but were told by China Bloom that they had to pay 100,000 AUD ($70,000) as a deposit so any damage to the property could be fixed.

Willis said: "I think they're trying to deter us from buying the property. They don't want us here."

View from Keswick Island
Keswick Island is well known for its views Stuart McAndrew/CC

Keswick Island is part of Whitsundays group of islands, located off the central coast of Queensland, Australia.

The majority of Keswick island has been designated as a national park. A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Resources said that it hoped any issues between the company and residents could be resolved.

A spokesperson said: "The Department's responsibility is to work with both the head lessee China Bloom and sublessees to ensure all relevant activities are in accordance with the terms of the lease, particularly as China Bloom works to upgrade the island's roads, boat ramps, jetties and marine infrastructure. The majority of the issues raised by a small number of sublessees do not fall under the terms of the lease and are a commercial matter between them and the head lessee to resolve."

Newsweek has contacted China Bloom's Australian agent, Greaton Holdings, for comment. Tension has been growing between China and Australia in recent days, with the Australian government demanding China remove what it called a fake picture posted on a government Twitter account which showed an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing should be utterly ashamed for sharing the "repugnant" image. It comes after findings from an Australia Defence Force inquiry revealed that 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013.

Relations have also deteriorated after Australia has been at the forefront of demands for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and over Beijing's interference in Australian affairs.