The Chinese embassy in Canberra has hit back at Australian media reports of a man who says he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years, saying he is a convicted fraudster.
Wang Liqiang told Nine Newspapers he was seeking asylum in Australia, and was willing to detail his operations working as an intelligence agent for the Communist Party.
The embassy said Mr Wang was convicted of fraud and wanted by police after fleeing on a fake passport.
The statement, which referred to Mr Wang as a “self-proclaimed Chinese agent”, said he was sentenced to one year and three months in prison for fraud, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.
It referenced a Shanghai police statement which said they had opened an investigation into Mr Wang in April after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($6.7 million) through a “fake investment project” involving car imports in February.
The embassy said Mr Wang left for Hong Kong the same month the investigation was opened, with a “fake” Chinese passport and “fake” permanent Hong Kong resident ID.
It is understood Mr Wang is speaking with Australia’s domestic spy agency, ASIO, and has alleged the Communist Party ordered overseas assassinations — including in Australia.
In the statement Mr Wang provided ASIO last month, he reportedly stated: “I have been personally involved and participated in a series of espionage activities.”
The Chinese embassy’s comments come a day after Nine Newspapers reported Mr Wang was in hiding in Sydney.
On Saturday, a senior official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the ABC Australian security agencies were working to “separate fact from fiction” while assessing Mr Wang’s reports.
According to Nine Newspapers, Mr Wang provided new details about the kidnapping of five booksellers and their rendition to mainland China, starting in 2015.
He also reportedly told the group that Beijing spies were infiltrating Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, “operating with impunity in Australia” and influencing elections in Taiwan.
In a clip from 60 Minutes shared on social media, Mr Wang was translated as having said he decided to seek political asylum in Australia and provide new information about Beijing’s alleged espionage activities because he “knows very well that the Chinese Communist Party can never be trusted”.
“Once I go back, I will be dead,” he added.
‘Government makes no apologies for interference laws’
Speaking on Insiders on Sunday morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responded to calls from his colleagues, including MP Andrew Hastie, for Mr Wang to be granted political asylum in Australia.
Mr Frydenberg said Mr Hastie was “entitled to his view”, adding Mr Wang’s case was in the hands of Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
“I won’t comment on specifics of an ASIO operational matter,” he said.
“But what I will say is that the Government makes no apologies for the laws that we’ve introduced around foreign interference and foreign influence.”
On Saturday, Mr Frydenberg had said the relevant Australian authorities were following up on the “sensitive matter”.
“These are very disturbing reports and the matter is now in the hands of the appropriate law enforcement agencies so I wouldn’t comment on the particulars of individual cases,” he said.
“The Government makes no apologies for the measures we have taken to ensure that we have foreign interference laws in place.”