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Chinese defector's spying allegations rock Australian politics

Australian 2019 elections - Chisholm electorate

Australian 2019 elections – Chisholm electorate: Screenshot 60 Minutes program

Allegations by a defector have brought strong reactions from many Australians. Wang Liqiang, a self-professed Chinese government spy, has apparently been in hiding down under since May 2019.

A 60 Minutes Australia interview with Wang, as part of a Nine Media investigation, contained a series of explosive claims. Wang stated that:

  • He was involved in sabotaging the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement by infiltration, violence and intimidation. Alleged infiltration included university campuses and local media.
  • The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had intended to plant him undercover in Taiwan as part of a plan to meddle in the upcoming presidential election and that he had led a cyber army that interfered in last year’s local elections there. Wang claimed the Hong Kong-listed company China Innovation was the front for the espionage, implicating its CEO Xiang Xin.
  • Chinese spies are operating in Australia with impunity.

In response to the program, the Chinese government has denied Wang is a spy, claiming that he is a convicted criminal. Meanwhile the Taiwanese security have detained Xiang Xin and a colleague as they were trying to leave the country.

The #ChinaSpy and related hashtags were busy after the program. Hayden was not the only one on social media to call on the major political parties to take strong action:

60 Minutes went on to reveal allegations that Chinese intelligence had been cultivating an Australian citizen to stand as a Liberal Party candidate in the Federal electorate of Chisholm at the last election. Luxury car dealer, Bo ‘Nick’ Zhao, was apparently approached but instead reported the approach to the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). He subsequently died in a hotel room but the cause of his death has yet to be explained. ASIO has made a public statement confirming his involvement and that it is investigating the matter.

The successful Liberal candidate for Chisholm at the May 2019 election, Gladys Liu, has been accused of CCP (Chinese Communist Party)connections that she has denied. It is not surprising that her name has been thrown around on social media following this latest revelation:

Fellow backbench Liberal Member of the House of Representatives, Andrew Hastie, appeared on the program. He described Wang's allegation as a state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate the parliament and run an agent there.

Hastie chairs the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence . He was recently denied a visa to visit China on a study tour, along with Liberal Senator James Paterson.

There have been suspicions aired on Twitter about Wang’s truthfulness and motivation:

The role of ASIO has also been questioned:

The South China Morning Post’s John F Power also questioned the veracity of the story:

China is Australia’s largest trading partner. The Australia/China relationship has been a hot topic in recent years. Some of the contentious issues include:

  • Human rights, especially the treatment of the Muslim minority Uighurs.
  • Growing Chinese expansion and influence in the Pacific region.
  • Interference in Australian politics, which prompted a ban on foreign donations to political parties and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme to curb lobbying.
  • Increasing collaboration between Chinese denfense companies and universities
  • Hacking of parliamentary and other government websites.
  • So-called ‘hostage diplomacy’ with the detention of Australian citizens such as Yang Hengjun.
  • Tighter restrictions on foreign investment following the controversial 99 year lease of Darwin Port by Chinese interests.
  • The banning of technology giant Huawei from the development of the 5G mobile network over national security concerns.

Australia has a population of over 1.2 million residents who identify as having Chinese ancestry in a total population approaching 24.6 million. Many feel that tensions with China have resulted in increased racism and xenophobia. They also object to having to justify themselves to fellow Aussies:

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