Zhirong Hu is the director of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), which is allegedly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Some experts have claimed that its mission is to groom political, business, and media leaders in several countries around the world.
Hu, who is the leading figure of the Chinese group, can be seen in some recently uncovered pictures with five British Prime Ministers -- Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair.
He was captured in a photo with U.S. President Donald Trump while giving a thumbs-up and posing shoulder to shoulder with the 45th President in 2018. Hu, who sits in China's upper parliamentary house, has been seen shaking hands with former U.S President George W Bush, almost eight years ago.
The claims of experts are backed by a book titled "Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World," which alleged that Beijing is recruiting 'useful idiots' to push the country's agenda in the West.
What is Hu's Role?
The revelation about what Beijing has been doing around the world come as Britain's National Security Council is poised to ban Huawei, the controversial Chinese telecom company from involvement in the country's 5G network.
An 86-page report, leaked last week, claimed that China was trying to manipulate key figures in the U.K. In the new book, Hidden Hand, written by Australian academic Clive Hamilton, the author explained the Chinese group CPAFFC and wrote, just as in the U.K., no community can use the word "royal" in the title without official permission, in China also no one is authorized to include words like "people" or "friendship" in the title of a group without CCP's permission.
The book says, "Friendship has a very distinct meaning, a cynical and opportunistic one. It does not refer to an intimate personal bond, but to a strategic relationship on behalf of the party."
As reported by the Daily Mail, according to political sources in China, Hu's access to elite figures in the West is "unprecedented." When Johnson, May, and Blair were asked about Hu, they said they did not know him and were merely posing for photographs at some event. A source told the Daily Mail that former PM Brown had no knowledge of the popular Chinese figure, while Cameron declined to comment.
In 2017 it was reported that Hu is the chairman of the board of Kai Xin Rong Group that invested 500 million euros in broadband in Greece after the country's Prime Minister visited China. He allegedly donated the third of his personal wealth to charitable causes and attended events of the mysterious 48 Group Club, a U.K.-based business networking organization, accompanied by Lady Xuelin Bates, wife of Conservative Paty politician Lord Bates. She was also captured in an image alongside Hu and PM Johnson at a convention in 2019.
The Kai Xin Rong Group became a topic of discussion after the book Hidden Hand claimed that the political networking club was being used to further China's agenda of making network connections with senior politicians in the U.K.
The revelations came as Labour politician Peter Mandelson, also linked to the organization, appeared to toe the Beijing line and accused the British government of being at "sixes and sevens" on China. He said the U.K. needed to decide whether it was going to "jump on the anti-China bandwagon" as it has become a current fashion in the world or to reconsider trade talks.
"We've got to work out how to best to exert influence on China in order to maintain that framework of one country, two systems," he told Times Radio. "What do you mean telling China off?...This is not Student Union politics where we pass resolutions and think we can somehow prevail against a country we don't like. We've got to ask ourselves in this country where exactly we're going to on China," he said.