ASIO Chief Confirms Probe Into China Spying Allegations
Australia’s spy agency ASIO has been investigating allegations of China’s Government actively interfering with Australia’s democratic process, the nation’s director-general of security – and effectively chief of the spy service – Mike Burgess, announced yesterday.
The allegations are said to refer to reports of an Australian national, one Nick Zhao, who was said to have been planted in the Liberal Party by the Chinese Government before he was found dead earlier this year in a Melbourne motel.
The allegations also involve alleged Chinese spy Wang Liqiang, who defected to Australia and has provided sworn statements to ASIO about Beijing’s interference in foreign governments.
These and other matters were raised on Sunday in a 60 Minutes program by the Nine service, which drew comments from Burgess. Saying that ASIO is taking the allegations seriously, Burgess said “Australians can be reassured that ASIO was previously aware of matters that have been reported today,and has been actively investigating them.
“However, in accordance with long-standing practice, I will not comment on this particular operational matter, including any detail of the individuals involved.”
He added: “Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security. ASIO will continue to confront and counter foreign interference and espionage in Australia.”
Wang is reported to have outlined a number of espionage missions in which he said he was personally involved, and alleged that China has ordered overseas assassinations in several countries, including Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office yesterday issued a statement regarding the allegations. This says, inter alia: ”We have taken strong action to equip our intelligence and security agencies to protect Australians and our institutions, including appointing the first National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator, establishing the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme and establishing the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce.
In Federal Parliament yesterday, Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie, who heads a parliamentary committee on intelligence and security, said Australians should be “very concerned” about the alleged plot.
“This isn’t just cash in a bag, given for favours, this is a state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our parliament … using an Australian citizen and basically running them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” Andrew Hastie said.