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Iran Press TV

China, Australia in war of words over claims of Beijing's meddling attempts

Iran Press TV

Monday, 25 November 2019 11:24 AM

Australia has engaged in a war of words with China after a media outlet accused Beijing of plotting to install an agent in the country's parliament, allegations rejected by the Chinese government as "fabricated."

Beijing on Monday reacted to the allegations aired on the Nine Network's 60 Minutes program on Sunday, which suggested suspected Chinese agents had approached a Chinese-Australian man to run as a candidate in the parliament prior to Australia's May general elections.

The report claimed that they offered Bo "Nick" Zhao, a member of Australia's Liberal Party, $679,000.

According to the report, the 32-year-old man disclosed the alleged approach for him to spy on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (Asio) last year.

He was later found dead in a motel room in March. Police have been unable to determine how he died.

Parliamentary intelligence committee Chief Andrew Hastie also accused China of trying to "infiltrate our parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system."

"This is really significant and Australians should be very, very concerned about this," he said.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the allegations as "deeply disturbing and troubling."

Morrison, however, warned authorities not to leap into conclusion.

"Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security," said the prime minister. "Australia is not naive to the threats that it faces more broadly. And I mean more broadly."

He also reassured that his government has "strengthened the laws… increased the resources... to ensure Australia was in the best possible position to deal with any threats that come our way broadly, or specifically."

The media claims and Australian officials' reactions angered China, with its Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying at a daily news briefing on Monday that the interference allegations leveled against China in Australian media outlets had been fabricated.

Australians 'seized with imaginary fear' of China

He said that some Australian politicians, organizations, and media outlets have "become seized with imaginary fears" on issues related to China.

"They constantly fabricate cases of so-called Chinese spies infiltrating Australia," he said. "However bizarre the story, lies are still lies in the end, whatever new guise they wear."

In an unrelated case, Nine also reported that a man claiming to be a Chinese agent had applied for asylum in Australia.

It said the man identified as Wang "William" Liqiang had reportedly provided authorities with information about operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.

The man told the program that he was aware of several Chinese spies operating in Australia and attempting to influence politics.

Chinese police, however, identified the man as an unemployed fugitive who was convicted of fraud before fleeing China on a fake passport.

It said Wang, a 26-year-old from the eastern province of Fujian, was found guilty of fraud in 2016 and given a suspended 15-month prison sentence.

Australia has long accused China of trying to influence the country's domestic affairs.

China, Australia's largest trading partner, however, says it never interferes in the internal affairs of another country.

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