Australia

AFP 'actively investigating' alleged Chinese spy's foreign interference claims

Wang "William" Liqiang speaks to 60 Minutes. Source: 60 Minutes

The Australian Federal Police is investigating claims of foreign interference made by alleged Chinese spy Wang Liqiang - believed to be in hiding in Sydney.

The Australian Federal police is “actively investigating” claims made by self-proclaimed Chinese spy Wang "William" Liqiang about Beijing espionage operations on Australian soil.

The 26-year-old is seeking asylum in Australia and believed to be in hiding in Sydney after his defection was aired alongside startling allegations of Chinese foreign interference by Nine’s 60 Minutes on Sunday.

A spokesperson for the AFP confirming it is investigating the claims made by Mr Wang.

His testimony includes allegations that a deep-cover spy ring carried out espionage and assassinations in Australia.

Mr Wang has reportedly also provided Australia’s domestic spy agency ASIO with details of the political interference attempts.

Australian authorities are now considering his request for political asylum over fears of retribution against him from the Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese police argue the man claiming political asylum as a former Chinese spy is a convicted fraudster.

Mr Wang believes he will be killed if he returns to China - and several politicians have backed his claim for a protection visa.

Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong said the allegations of foreign interference operations were "very disturbing".

"Those allegations are being and should be considered and investigated by the security agencies," she said.

“We have to be very clear that we want to engage [with China] but our engagement is on the basis that we safeguard our sovereignty and our democracy."

Alleged plot to infiltrate Australian parliament

In a separate incident, Channel Nine's 60 Minutes detailed an alleged plot by a Chinese spy ring to plant an agent of Beijing into Australia’s Federal Parliament.     

The attempt reportedly centres around 32-year-old luxury car dealer Nick Zhao, who was found dead in a Melbourne motel room in March.

He allegedly told Australia’s spy agency about a million-dollar offer by Chinese businessman Brian Chen to run as the Liberal candidate for Chisholm a year before his death.

China has accused Australian politicians and the media of reaching a state of “hysteria and extreme nervousness,” and dismissed the claims.

"China doesn't interfere in other countries' internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

“Stories like 'Chinese espionage' or 'China's infiltration in Australia', with however bizarre plots and eye-catching details, are nothing but lies.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the allegations “deeply disturbing and troubling” but urged against people rushing to conclusions over the matter.

"These matters were already under investigation and those investigations are continuing," he said on Monday.

"I would caution anyone leaping to any conclusions about these matters. But I do find these allegations troubling and disturbing."

Senator Wong is lobbying the Federal government for briefings from DFAT and the Office of National Intelligence over sensitive matters of the China relationship but this request has so far been denied.

"Fundamentally the challenge before the country and the Government needs to grapple with ... is that this is a nation which is not a democracy, which is important for Australia now and into the future," she said.

“It is incumbent on the Government, it is their job to lead this discussion with the Australian community.”

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