A Chinese spy has risked his life to defect to Australia and is now offering a trove of unprecedented inside intelligence on how China conducts its interference operations abroad.
Wang “William” Liqiang is the first Chinese operative to ever blow his cover. He has revealed the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong, as well as providing details of how they fund and conduct political interference operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
Mr Wang has taken his material to Australia’s counter-espionage agency, ASIO, and is seeking political asylum – potentially opening another front in Australia’s challenging bilateral relationship with China.
A sworn statement Mr Wang provided ASIO in October states: “I have personally been involved and participated in a series of espionage activities”. He faces certain detention and possible execution if he returns to China.
Mr Wang is currently at an undisclosed location in Sydney on a tourist visa and seeking urgent protection from the Australian government – a plea he says he has passed on in multiple meetings with ASIO.
In interviews with The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes, he has revealed in granular detail how Beijing covertly controls listed companies to fund intelligence operations, including the surveillance and profiling of dissidents and the co-opting of media organisations.
He has given previously unheard details about the kidnapping of five booksellers from Hong Kongand their rendition to the Chinese mainland. His testimony shows how Beijing’s spies are infiltrating Hong Kong’s democracy movement, manipulating Taiwan’s elections and operating with impunity in Australia.
ASIO has repeatedly warned that the current threat of foreign interference is “unprecedented” and that the number of foreign intelligence officers currently operating in Australia is higher than it was during the Cold War. ASIO has never publicly named China as a primary source of its concerns, as the government grapples with how to balance public awareness with the risk of diplomatic and economic retaliation.
However, on Friday, former ASIO boss Duncan Lewis said the Chinese government was seeking to “take over” Australia’s political system through its “insidious” foreign interference operations.
Among his key revelations, Mr Wang said he had met the head of a deep-cover spy ring operating with impunity in Australia.