We want to thank our friends Down Under, who sent us news early this morning about an intriguing story breaking in Melbourne. Aussie publication The Age has revealed that there are plans for a “super city” development in a suburb west of town known as East Werribee, a massive development that will include huge residential towers and an educational hub featuring overseas universities. It’s meant to be an innovation hub built from scratch and flourishing in 20 or 30 years.
But hang on, The Age says, the businessman leading the company which has received “preferred bidder” status on the project from the local government, a man named Bill Zheng (pictured above), “has strong links to the Church of Scientology.”
That certainly got our attention. We’re always interested when media talk about “links” to Scientology. No one has “links” to Scientology. They are either in or they are not, right?
Well, Bill Zheng certainly looks like he’s in. With both feet.
First, a little more about the project in Australia. It’s to be built on nearly 1,000 acres that the Victoria government is selling west of Melbourne that currently features fields and old research laboratories. In August, The Age reported that a consortium calling itself “Australian Education City” was one of five bidders for the parcel, and that the actual company behind the consortium was something called Investors Direct. Now, Australian Education City has been named preferred bidder by the state of Victoria’s Finance Minister, Robin Scott.
“The consortium has promised a 1.5 million-square-metre city on the site with soaring residential towers and Australian and overseas universities providing an employment mecca it says will eventually provide 58,000 jobs,” says The Age.
But there are questions about whether Zheng’s group can really deliver, the newspaper says. Just a few weeks ago, Australian Education City was worth only $16,000. Then, suddenly, it got a boost: “Company extracts obtained by Fairfax Media show that on November 20, three companies owned by six Chinese investors tipped $4.25 million into the business for a 1.7 per cent share, giving it an imputed value of $254 million.”
The Age reports that the consortium has until February to prove to the Victoria government that it’s really viable and can deliver on its ambitious plans.
In the meantime, we wonder if the government will look into Bill Zheng and his involvement in Scientology.
According to his online bio, Zheng had a long career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in “Australia, Hong Kong, China, USA, Canada & Northern Europe” before leaving the company to found his own mortgage brokering business, Investors Direct Financial Group, in 2001.
Checking the Investors Direct website about its leadership, we find that Zheng is its managing director, and Vivien Lin and Ross Martiensen are also directors. All three show up in online records of wealthy Scientologists.
According to Scientology’s own publications, Zheng completed the very expensive and very weird “L Rundowns,” which are only delivered at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida, Scientology’s international “mecca.” (Zheng did L11 and L12 in 2009.) There’s also a Vivien Lin listed in Scientology publications who completed L10 and L12 in 2010. But to do the L’s, you have to be a rather high-level Scientologist, with years of involvement behind you.
Zheng and Martiensen show up in a 2012 list of Melbourne Scientologists as “Patrons” of the International Association of Scientologists, which means they gave the IAS donations of at least $50,000 each.
In August 2011, Zheng was listed as a contributor to the fund for construction of the “Super Power” Building (now named the Flag Building) in Clearwater with a donation of $35,000.
And Zheng also is listed multiple times at the website of Performia, a management consultant company that is a front for Scientology.
According to the story in The Age, Zheng’s companies have not used Performia since 2011. But today, Performia’s home page still features a prominent endorsement from Zheng. (Just two days ago, we published a list of WISE companies and individuals taking part in a book-selling contest, and Performia was leading the pack.)
So, Zheng does not have “links” to Scientology. Having done the Ls, and with substantial donations to the IAS and to Super Power, his involvement in Scientology is rather deep.
We’ll be interested to see if that matters to the Victoria government, a state which once banned Scientology after an investigation in the 1960s. After our own tour to that country just two months ago, we can say that the patience for Scientology there was worn very thin.
This should be interesting to watch.
Arrest in Austin car crash into Scientology org
Yesterday, we noted that Monday night someone drove a car into the Scientology org in Austin, Texas. We pointed out that there appeared to be some reason to believe that it was an intentional act, and we said, “If you have a beef with Scientology, vandalism is not a viable option.”
Now, Austin media has reported that police have arrested Erin McMurtry, 31, for the incident. Workers at the org had noticed that McMurtry had been parked for about forty minutes nearby before she drove through the storefront and into some furniture inside. No one was injured. She then backed out and drove away.
We have no reason to believe that McMurtry is an active member of the Scientology watching community, but we did notice that last week she used her Facebook account to share video of Leah Remini’s 20/20 interview, and, a few minutes later, shared video of our appearance on Allison Hope Weiner’s Media Mayhem program.
McMurtry has been charged with criminal mischief of a place of worship, and faces 2 to 10 years in prison.
Again, we want to reiterate what we said yesterday: Vandalism is not a viable option. We don’t condone harassment or violence toward Scientologists or their facilities.
We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.
Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)
Posted by Tony Ortega on December 16, 2015 at 07:00
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