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Self-claimed spy fugitive charged with fraud: Chinese police

2019/11/24 14:21:27

Image from The Age web pages at theage.com.au

Shanghai, Nov. 24 (CNA) China's public security authorities have identified a Chinese national who was reported by Australian media to be a defector involved in spying operations in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia, as a fugitive being pursued for fraud.

The Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian media outlets reported Saturday that a Chinese defector named Wang "William" Liqiang went to Australia's counter-espionage agency in October with intelligence on how China's senior military intelligence officers funded and conducted spying operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.

However, in a Saturday post on its official Weibo web page, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau's Jingan Branch said that after investigating the matter, it found that the so-called "special agent of China" is Wang Liqiang (王立強), 26, from Nanping in Fuijan Province.

"Jobless, Wang is a fugitive involved in cases," the post reads.

The Chinese police precinct elaborated that Wang was found guilty of fraud at the Guangze People's Court in Fujian in October 2016 and was sentenced to a jail term of 15 months, deferred for 18 months.

In February 2019, Wang was accused of swindling a person out of more than 4.6 million renminbi (US$653,500) through a fictitious automobile investment scheme. Two months later on April 19, China's Jingan precinct kicked off an investigation into the case.

According to the post, Wang went to Hong Kong April 10, entering on a People's Republic of China passport and a Hong Kong permanent residence certificate, both of which have been found to be fake.

Currently the public security authorities are probing the case, the post said, but did not mention whether Wang has any evidence about China's spying activities.

According to The Age newspaper, which is owned and published by Australia's Nine Network, Wang told Australia's counter-espionage agency how he helped Beijing build a "cyber army" in Hong Kong to affect political debate and candidates' fortunes in Taiwan's local government elections in November 2018.

Wang also revealed how Beijing had invested in Taiwanese media companies and has built covert alliances with TV stations to allow the control and censorship of news.

He claimed to have helped direct positive media attention toward favored Taiwanese politicians, including opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), and to have financed grassroots political support for Taiwan's opposition, particularly the KMT.

According to the report, Wang is currently living in Sydney with his wife and infant son on a tourist visa and has requested political asylum.

In Taiwan, the case has been highlighted by the media and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as possible meddling by Beijing in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections slated for Jan. 11.

Asked about the report, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said during a re-election campaign in Hualien County Saturday that China's influence in major Taiwanese elections is obvious. She urged the public to stay vigilant so that the country's hard-won democracy and freedom can be protected.

Also Saturday, the Ministry of Justice said it has asked the Criminal Investigation Bureau to look into the matter and to seek further information about the subject from relevant agencies in Australia.

However, some media in Taiwan, as well as Tsai's KMT opponent, have accused the ruling party and Tsai's campaign of trying to spread fear about China's interference in Taiwan's elections, including in last November's local government elections, without providing any hard evidence.

They accuse the DPP of using these fears for political gain to win votes in the upcoming elections.

On Sunday, the KMT urged judicial departments to seek out the truth behind Wang's allegations as soon as possible to prevent rumors and fake news from affecting the January elections.

Meanwhile, the National Security Bureau said it is checking on any facts in the Australian reports of alleged interference by China in Taiwan elections with Taiwan-friendly international entities.

The agency pledged efforts to crack down on illegal operations if they are found in the Wang case.

(By Chai,Sze-chia and Elizabeth Hsu)
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