Residents say they can’t go back to their homes since developer China Bloom bought a 99-year lease to take control of Keswick Island in 2019.
“I just don’t think they want Australians on the island,” former island resident Julie Willis told the news program “A Current Affair.” “I think that they want to have this island solely for the use of the Chinese tourism market.”
The Chinese developer has gone as far as banning residents from renting their homes on Airbnb, which residents say has ruined tourism, and blocking them from entering the island from air, land, and sea.
“There’s been no tourists since September last year,” former resident Rayna Asbury told the news program.
Keswick Island, which is owned by the Queensland Government, was declared a national park.
The Queensland Department of Resources told “A Current Affair” it hoped that any issued between the island’s residents and China Bloom can be resolved.
“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 department said.
There has been tension between Australia and China, most recently over an image showing an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child that was shared on social media by a Chinese official. China refused to apologize for the photo the Australian government called fake.