MELBOURNE–Australia is investigating allegations that China tried to install an agent in a parliamentary seat in Canberra, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization said in a rare statement, adding it was taking the matter seriously.
The spy agency issued the statement late on Sunday after allegations were aired on Australian television that a suspected Chinese espionage ring offered A$1 million ($679,000) to pay for a Melbourne luxury car dealer, Bo “Nick” Zhao, to run for a seat in Australias federal parliament.
“The reporting on Nines Sixty Minutes contains allegations that ASIO takes seriously,” ASIO Director-General of Security Mike Burgess said in the statement.
“Australians can be reassured that ASIO was previously aware of matters that have been reported today, and has been actively investigating them,” he said.
Officials at Chinas embassy in Canberra were not immediately available for comment.
Zhao told ASIO about the alleged approach from another Melbourne businessman about a year ago, the Sydney Morning Herald said in the joint report with 60 Minutes and The Age newspaper, citing Zhaos associates and Western security sources.
Zhao was found dead in March in a Melbourne motel room.
ASIOs Burgess said he would not comment further and that the matter was subject to a coronial inquiry. He said he was committed to protecting Australias democracy and sovereignty.
“Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security. ASIO will continue to confront and counter foreign interference and espionage in Australia,” his statement said.
Resource-rich Australias ties with its most important trading partner China have deteriorated in recent years, amid accusations that Beijing is meddling in domestic affairs.
The latest allegations followed separate reports that a ChiRead More – Source