Thu, Nov 28, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Fears raised for safety of defecting self-confessed Chinese spy

Experts say that defector William Wang Liqiang, who has applied for asylum in Australia, is a target of the Chinese government and needs extra protection

By Christopher Knaus and Ben Doherty  /  The Guardian

The Australian minders of Chinese defector William Wang Liqiang (王立強) have been urged to “double up” protection duties as experts raise significant fears about his safety.

Chinese state media have sought to discredit Wang as a convicted “fraudster,” liar and a fake after he revealed his role within Chinese intelligence and his bid for Australia’s protection on Saturday last week in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

The Chinese government released a notice from the Shanghai Public Security Bureau stating that it is investigating him for fraud, and released an online court record suggesting that a fraud conviction was recorded in 2016.

“He denies those allegations,” George Newhouse, Wang’s lawyer in Australia, told the Guardian.

Wang is staying in an undisclosed location in Sydney. He is in the country on a tourist visa and has formally applied for asylum.

Guardian Australia has been told that he holds significant concerns for his and his family’s safety.

One of the experts who helped investigate Wang’s claims, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Alex Joske, said that there is reason to doubt the allegations aired by the Chinese government about his fraud conviction.

He said it was clear from the Chinese police statements that Wang is now “a target.”

“He’d be a target of the Chinese government and we can see from the allegations that the Chinese government has made, those accusations from the police, that they are trying to go after him,” Joske said.

John Blaxland, a professor of international security and intelligence studies at Australian National University, said that the extraordinary revelations of China’s actions, if accurate, are unlike anything Australia has seen “in a generation.”

Significant protective precautions must be taken to guard Wang against retribution, he said.

“If I was his minders, I would be looking to double up on protection duties, and he must have minders. I’m assuming that someone is looking out for him and there are some protective measures in place.” he said.

“There’s a lot of egg being thrown around and it’s stuck on a lot of people’s faces,” Blaxland added.

The concerns for Wang come after the death of Bo “Nick” Zhao (趙波) in a Melbourne hotel room in March — an incident that passed almost unnoticed at the time.

Nine newspapers on Monday reported allegations that Zhao had been approached by Chinese businessmen in Melbourne to run for federal parliament, effectively as an agent of Beijing.

Zhao, a 32-year-old auto dealer who had run into financial difficulties, was found dead by a cleaner in a hotel room in Glen Waverley on March 3.

Former colleagues remember him as quiet, but determined.

Yvan Lieutier, who worked with Zhao through a Heidelberg car dealership for five months, said that he was a “very quiet” young man, but one who was “was pretty ambitious for his age.”

He was approached to run for parliament at the beginning of this year, and reported the approach to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) several weeks before his death.

A cause of death has not yet been established and Victoria police have referred Zhao’s death to the coroner.

“Local police prepared a report for the coroner in relation to the death of a 31-year-old man in Glen Waverley on 3 March 2019. As this matter is currently before the coroner, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time,” police said in a statement.

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