ASIO investigating China ‘spy’ death


A federal politician says the death of a 32-year-old man and its potential links to an alleged plot to infiltrate Australia's parliament with a foreign spy needs to be fully investigated.



Nine's 60 Minutes program aired the claims on Sunday, citing sources with knowledge of the plot, where Melbourne car dealer "Nick" Zhao, 32, was allegedly cultivated by the Chinese government to run as a Liberal Party candidate.

Mr Zhao allegedly told ASIO about the deal.

He was then reportedly found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March. Local police have been unable to conclude how he died.

Federal Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie says he was briefed on Mr Zhao's death as chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.


Federal Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie. Picture Gary Ramage
Federal Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie. Picture Gary Ramage

"It was surreal, it was like something out of a spy novel happening in Melbourne with impunity," he told Nine News.

Mr Hastie says Australians should be "very concerned" about the alleged plot. "This isn't just cash in a bag, given for favours, this is a state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our parliament," he said.

"Using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system. So this is really significant and Australians should be very, very concerned about this." Mr Hastie has called for a full investigation into Mr Zhao's death.

"Everyone should be concerned about the way that Nick Zhao died and I think we need a full investigation where we turn over every stone," he said. "We explore every nook and cranny, we cast as much light into the shadows and make sure that we have a full comprehensive understanding of how he died and why he died."


Wang "William" Liqiang claims to have been involved in espionage operations for China in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, during an interview with 60 minutes. Picture: 60 Minutes Australia


The revelation of the alleged plot comes after 60 Minutes aired the claims of self-proclaimed Chinese spy Wang "William" Liqiang.

Nine newspapers reported Mr Wang has provided Australia's counter-espionage agency ASIO with details of how China's senior military intelligence officers fund and conduct political interference operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.

The 27-year-old is currently hiding out in Sydney with his wife and two-year-old son, saying he lives in constant fear of being watched, followed or attacked.

He claimed his loyalty to the Chinese government faltered after he received a fake South Korean passport and was made to travel to Taiwan to interfere in the upcoming election there.

"This time I was requested to change my name and whole identity to go to Taiwan and be a spy there," Mr Wang told 60 Minutes.

"This is the main reason why I came to Australia to seek asylum. As Taiwan's ability of anti-infiltration is very strong, once I was found out, then my safety would be at stake. What would my family, my young son do? Who could protect me?"

He said he will help the Australian government understand China's intelligence system.

Mr Hastie praised Mr Wang for speaking out. "I think it takes huge reserves of courage to step out into the public square as a former Chinese spy, and reveal to the Australian public what you've been up to," he told the program.

"I'm of the view that anyone who's willing to assist us in defending our sovereignty, deserves our protection."

Chinese police say Mr Wang is a convicted fraudster.

Last week, retired ASIO chief Duncan Lewis accused the Chinese government of using "insidious" foreign interference operations to "take over" Australia's political system.

Mr Lewis claimed Chinese authorities were trying to "place themselves in a position of advantage" by in political, social, business and media circles, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday, citing the interview. "Espionage and foreign interference is insidious. Its effects might not present for decades and by that time it's too late," he said.

"You wake up one day and find decisions made in our country that are not in the interests of our country."