Mon, Nov 25, 2019 - Page 1 News List

China says self-confessed spy is fraudster

AP, PERTH, Australia

China yesterday denied the explosive claims of a self-confessed spy seeking asylum in Australia, saying that he is a convicted fraudster wanted by Shanghai police.

The Nine Network newspapers reported that Chinese defector Wang Liqiang (王立強) has given Australia’s counterespionage agency inside intelligence on how Beijing conducts its interference operations abroad and revealed the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong.

Wang said he was involved in the kidnapping in 2015 of one of five Hong Kong booksellers suspected of selling dissident materials.

Using a South Korean passport, Wang said he meddled in Taiwan’s local elections last year and added there were plans to disrupt the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11.

He said he currently was living in Sydney with his wife and infant son on a tourist visa and had requested political asylum.

Andrew Hastie, the chair of the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, yesterday said that Wang should be allowed to stay.

“I’m of the view that anyone who’s willing to assist us in defending our sovereignty deserves our protection,” Hastie told Australia’s Nine network newspapers.

Hastie, a vocal critic of Beijing, was banned from entering China last week along with another politician.

He has previously said Australia’s sovereignty and freedoms could be threatened by Beijing.

The Chinese embassy hit back at Wang and referenced a statement from Shanghai police, which said Wang was sentenced in China’s Fujian Province in October 2016 to one year and three months in prison for fraud with a suspended sentence of one-and-a-half years.

It said he was wanted in relation to a fraud case from earlier this year.

“On April 19, 2019, the Shanghai police opened an investigation into Wang, who allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan [US$653,474 at the current exchange rate] from a person surnamed Shu through a fake investment project involving car import in February,” the statement said.

The embassy said Wang left for Hong Kong on April 10 carrying a fake Chinese passport and a fake Hong Kong permanent resident ID.

It said the Shanghai police were investigating the matter.

Wang would be the first Chinese intelligence operative to blow his cover.

He told Nine Network he faced detention and possible execution if he returned to China.

Wang claimed he was part of a Hong Kong-based investment firm that was a front for the Chinese government to conduct political and economic espionage in Hong Kong, including infiltrating universities and directing harassment and cyberattacks against dissidents.

Resource-rich Australia relies on China for one-third of its export earnings, but relations have been frosty for some time.

The Australian government has been trying to neutralize China’s influence by banning foreign political donations and covert foreign interference in domestic politics.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Saturday told reporters that Wang’s claims were “very disturbing.”

“The matter is now in the hands of the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” he said. “The government makes no apologies for the strong measures that we’ve taken to ensure that we have foreign interference laws in place.

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