Australia is captivated by the story of a Chinese spy. 27-year-old Wang ‘William’ Liqiang has announced himself as a spy and sought asylum in Australia. He stays with his wife and son on a tourist visa in Sydney and is known to be the first Chinese spy to give up his cover.
Liqiang told an Australian investigative journalist that he shared valuable knowledge with ASIO, the Australian counter-intelligence agency, in October. He is said to have told about Chinese espionage operations and passed on the names of important military intelligence officers in Hong Kong.
“Even if only half of what he says is true, it is unprecedented,” said Australia correspondent Eva Gabeler. Liqiang says that if he goes back to China, he will face jail time and possible execution.
In his eyes, this was the last moment to step out of this world.
As a Chinese spy, he is said to have been involved in disrupting and opposing democratic processes in Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. For example, he worked in Hong Kong for an investment company, a front of the Chinese government for political and economic espionage, and infiltrated universities and media.
He is said to have recruited students with scholarships, travel gifts, alumni associations and other funds. He used those students to get information about anti-Chinese protesters in Hong Kong, to pressure them and to deter them, including through social media.
He is also said to have provided details of the kidnapping of a Hong Kong bookseller who had been missing for a long time and who was found to have been transferred to mainland China because he had banned books in his shop.
Liqiang’s next mission would be in Taiwan to influence next year’s presidential elections. China considers that island to be an apostate province, but Taiwan, like the protesters in Hong Kong, wants to get rid of the pinching ties with China.
Liquiang would be given a new identity for that mission, correspondent Gabeler said. “He was certainly not looking forward to that. He was terribly afraid of losing everything. In 2017, his son was born in Australia and he is only 27 years old. In his view, this was the last moment to step out of this world.”
“It is all very sensitive information that is difficult to verify,” said Gabeler, “but the investigative journalist who wrote the story says he has significant confirmation from Western intelligence agencies.”
Australian Finance Minister has said Liqiang’s outpourings are “very disturbing”. The relationship between Australia and China has been stiff for some time, both because of political-economic disagreements and because of warnings from the ASIO.
Australian intelligence agencies have been warning of foreign interference for some time now, and are referring to China’s infiltration into Australia, Gabeler says. “With Liqiang’s story, those warnings become concrete.”