‘Chinese spy’ seeking asylum in Australia

Wang William Liqiang photographed for The Age newspaperImage copyright
Steven Siewert/The Age

Image caption

Wang Liqiang fears he will be killed if he goes back to China

A man claiming to be a Chinese spy has applied for asylum in Australia, media reports say.

Wang “William” Liqiang has reportedly given authorities information about operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, and says he was “personally involved” in espionage work.

He is now with his wife and child in Sydney, and fears he will be killed if he goes home.

Mr Wang’s identity and allegations remain unconfirmed.

But Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has told reporters Mr Wang’s case is “now in the hands of the appropriate law enforcement agencies”, adding that his accusations are “very disturbing”.

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And the opposition Labor party leader Anthony Albanese has said the man may have a “legitimate claim for asylum”.

One anonymous senior official told Australian broadcaster ABC intelligence agencies now had to “separate fact from fiction” while investigating Mr Wang’s allegations.

Who is Wang Liqiang?

Mr Wang’s extraordinary allegations first appeared in Australian media outlets on Saturday. His full television interview will be broadcast Sunday night on the 60 Minutes programme.

He reportedly gave a 17-page statement to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in October, detailing his work as well as the names of senior intelligence officials and how they run their operations.

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After growing worries about his work, Mr Wang travelled to Australia where his wife was studying and living with their new born son. He is now in an undisclosed location in Sydney on a tourist visa and has applied for asylum, fearing for his safety if he returns to China.

“Once I go back, I will be dead,” he said in a clip of the 60 Minutes interview.

What does Mr Wang claim to know about?

He says his own work included infiltrating Taiwan with a fake South Korean passport to influence elections there, and working with a listed company in Hong Kong which was trying to counter the pro-democracy movement in the territory.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Wang said he was personally involved in the kidnapping and detention of five booksellers in Hong Kong in 2015. China’s government wanted to “bring a thorough deterrent effect on those people,” he told the paper.

China has always denied accusations it kidnapped the men. The country’s law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction in Hong Kong.

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A proposed bill that would have allowed the authorities to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China sparked major protests in June this year.

These have since morphed into wider demonstrations about police brutality and fears about increased authority from Beijing.

Hong Kong is a part of China, but the former British colony holds freedoms unseen on the mainland.

Media captionThe BBC’s Helier Cheung on why people are taking to the streets in Hong Kong