PM disturbed by Chinese spy allegations
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled allegations of a Chinese plot to infiltrate Australia's parliament through the Liberal Party "deeply disturbing and troubling".
Meanwhile the Australian Federal Police has reportedly opened a formal investigation into the claims of a self-confessed Chinese spy, The Australian reports.
Explosive allegations aired on the Nine Network's 60 Minutes suggested Chinese operatives offered $1 million to fund Liberal Party member Nick Zhao's tilt at federal parliament.
The 32-year-old was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March after reportedly approaching ASIO to discuss the plot.
"I find the allegations deeply disturbing and troubling," Mr Morrison said. "I would caution anyone leaping to any conclusions about these matters. And that's why we have these agencies."
China claims it has never tried to meddle in other countries' internal affairs and isn't interested in doing so.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused some Australian media outlets of fabricating allegations of interference at a press briefing. ASIO has confirmed the domestic spy agency is actively investigating the allegations.
Mr Morrison pointed to strengthened laws and powers of intelligence and security agencies to stop foreign spies.
"I can assure Australians that under our government, the resources have never been stronger, the laws have never been tougher, and the government has never been more determined to keep Australians free and safe from foreign interference," he said.
The prime minister said leaders from several other countries were interested in following Australia's lead on countering foreign interference. The alleged plot was revealed one day after other claims of attempts by the Chinese government to influence Australian politics.
A Chinese defector provided ASIO with details of how Chinese military intelligence officers fund and conduct political interference operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
Wang Liqiang is now seeking asylum in Australia.
"The AFP can confirm it is actively investigating the claims made by Mr Wang,'' a spokesman told The Australian on Monday.
The AFP will seek to interview Mr Wang, who is believed to be hiding in Sydney, the paper says.