Australia investigates China plot to plant spy in Parliament

The Nine Network on Sunday aired explosive accusations that suspected Chinese operatives had offered Melbourne luxury car dealer Bo “Nick” Zhao $679,000 to run as a candidate for a parliamentary seat in Melbourne. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 November 2019

Australia investigates China plot to plant spy in Parliament

  • Australian network suspects Chinese operatives offered Melbourne luxury car dealer money to run as a candidate
  • The man was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room

PERTH: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that allegations of a Chinese plot to plant an agent into Australia’s Parliament are “deeply disturbing and troubling.”
The Nine Network on Sunday aired explosive accusations that suspected Chinese operatives had offered Melbourne luxury car dealer Bo “Nick” Zhao $679,000 to run as a candidate for a parliamentary seat in Melbourne.
The 32-year-old was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March after reportedly approaching ASIO, Australia’s counterespionage agency. Police have been unable to determine how he died.
“The government has never been more determined to keep Australians free and safe from foreign interference,” Morrison told reporters. “I would caution anyone leaping to any conclusions about these matters.”
ASIO director-general of security Mike Burgess said late Sunday that the allegations are serious.
“Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security,” he said. “ASIO will continue to confront and counter foreign interference and espionage in Australia.”
Parliamentary intelligence committee chief Rep. Andrew Hastie called for an investigation into Zhao’s death.
“This isn’t just cash in a bag, given for favors. This is a state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” he told the Nine Network.
Earlier this month, Hastie said he and fellow Liberal Party member Sen. James Paterson had been barred entry to China for a study trip because of their criticism of the Chinese government.
The latest revelations are set to test already frosty relations between Australia and China.
They come days after a self-confessed spy seeking asylum in Australia reportedly gave ASIO 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 “William” Liqiang provided detailed accusations of China infiltrating and disrupting democratic systems in Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He would be the first Chinese intelligence operative to blow his cover.
China attempted to discredit Wang, saying Sunday that he is a convicted fraudster wanted by Shanghai police.
“He’s in Australia. And we have the rule of law in Australia,” Morrison said of Wang, who is living in Sydney with his wife and infant son on a tourist visa. “And as a result then you can expect the same protections to apply to anyone who is living in our country, whether on a visa or any other arrangement.”
The Australian government has been trying to neutralize China’s influence by banning foreign political donations and all covert foreign interference in domestic politics.
Resource-rich Australia relies on China for one-third of its export earnings.


Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Updated 55 min 58 sec ago

Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case of the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.
He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.
One of his traveling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.
Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said.
It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms “given the high volume of international travel.”
Moreover, tourists leaving Bangkok for China said on Thursday they were worried about the spread of the Wuhan virus, ahead of more air and train travel in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year holidays.
China has placed Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on lockdown, as it is considered the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 and infected nearly 600.
Thailand has so far confirmed four cases of coronavirus, the largest number outside China. Two of the cases were Chinese women who have since been allowed to return home. Chinese tourists make up the largest group of visitors to Thailand.
At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, masked visitors lined up as usual to check in for Southern China Airlines flights back to China.
AirAsia said on Thursday it has canceled direct flights between Wuhan and cities in Thailand and Malaysia until Jan 28.
Matt Thomas, who lives in the Chinese city of Xian, said he was worried about the new Chinese virus, especially because he once contracted swine flu which he described as “awful.”
“I’m a bit worried that it will repeat. I have just got to be safe. In these sorts of situations, you know, take everything seriously, don’t take any risks,” Thomas said.
Chinese health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate, as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year.