Wang “William” Liqiang defected to Australia, claiming to know how the Chinese meddle in foreign elections. The Chinese government claims that he is a fraud.
Last week, a man proclaiming to be a Chinese spy defected to Australia and offered a trove of unprecedented inside intelligence on how China conducts its interference operations abroad.
Wang “William” Liqiang is the first Chinese operative to ever blow his cover. He has revealed the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong, as well as providing details of how they fund and conduct political interference operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
Mr Wang has taken his material to Australia’s counter-espionage agency, ASIO, and is seeking political asylum – potentially opening another front in Australia’s challenging bilateral relationship with China.
A sworn statement Mr Wang provided ASIO in October states: “I have personally been involved and participated in a series of espionage activities”. He faces certain detention and possible execution if he returns to China.
…The mainland’s intelligence efforts included creating more than 20 media and internet companies to launch “targeted attacks”, and investing about US$200 million over an unspecified period in television stations in Taiwan, the report quoted Wang as saying.
Move over, Ukraine! Authorities in Taiwan have begun an investigation to determine if there is interference in its upcoming presidential election, as well as illegally influencing past elections.
Officials from the island’s security and investigation agencies are also looking into allegations that Han Kuo-yu, the presidential candidate for the mainland-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party, accepted a 20 million yuan (US$2.8 million) donation from Beijing in the run-up to his victory in the Kaohsiung mayoral election in November last year.
The government had “taken serious note of the case” and “national security units have set up a committee to follow up” on evidence already collected, the presidential office said in a statement on Saturday.
Some Western diplomatic officials believe the claims by Wang to be reliable, at least in part.
Mr. Wang’s account, a 17-page plea for political asylum in Australia, reads in parts like an espionage thriller. He detailed code names of covert operations, shadowy business ventures and ultimately his dawning disenchantment with what he described as China’s efforts to stifle democracy and human rights around the world.
“I do not want to see Taiwan becoming a second Hong Kong,” he wrote. “And I would not become an accomplice in the conspiracy of turning an originally democratic and free land into autocratic land.”
How are the Chinese responding to Wang’s assertions? Shanghai officials say that the “spy” is a fraud.
Shanghai police said Wang – described as a 26-year-old unemployed worker from Nanping in the southeastern province of Fujian – was given an 18-month suspended sentence in October 2016 for fraud by the Guangze county court in Fujian.
According to an online document in the case, Wang “made up fictional facts and concealed the truth” to defraud a father of two children of 120,000 yuan (HK$133,400) after offering to get the children into a special school in 2015. At that time, Wang was a student and it was his first offence.
Wang is currently at an undisclosed location in Sydney on a tourist visa, seeking urgent protection from the Australian government. Wang’s minders have been urged to “double-up” protection duties as experts fear for his safety.
However, in addition to Wang’s claims, an Australian TV news station reported that Beijing tried to install a Chinese spy as a Member of Parliament (MP).
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says allegations of a plot to plant a Chinese spy in Canberra’s parliament are “deeply disturbing”.
The allegations – first aired by local network Nine – assert that a suspected Chinese espionage ring approached a Chinese-Australian man to run as an MP.
The 32-year-old man has since died in unexplained circumstances.
China has denied the allegations, which Australia’s domestic spy agency has confirmed it is investigating.
In a rare public statement, the agency said it was taking the allegations seriously.
Mr Morrison said he found the reports troubling, but warned against “leaping to conclusions”.
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