On spy defection: preliminary thoughts
Claims on China's intelligence & information operations are not surprising
Australian media has reported that a Chinese intelligence official, Wang Liqiang 王立強, has defected in Australia. He is seeking asylum and offering substantial intelligence to the Australian Government. The intelligence pertains to PRC’s foreign interference operations, including in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Australia.
Wang’s claims do not come as a surprise for those of us keeping a watch on China’s influence and information operations in Australia, HK and Taiwan.
I told Steven Lee Myers at NYT that “[w]e had an inkling this was happening, but we have never had evidence or an insider’s account.” Here, I was referring to information operations. Of course, we’ve had plenty of revelations about China’s influence operations across the world, including through the united front system of the Chinese party-state.
These kinds of activities have acquired new public prominence due to Australia’s heated China debate, the ongoing HK protests, and the looming election in Taiwan.
Wang, during his interview with Vision Times Sydney, went into detail on the PLA’s influence, intelligence and information operations in HK against pro-democracy students and activists, and in Tawain against the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, who unlike the KMT’s presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, refuses to recognise the so-called “1992 consensus.”
As you can imagine, Beijing wants KMT to be in power, and not the DPP. The question for many of us is what is Beijing doing about it. Wang’s revelations, whether accurate or not, will be bombshell here in Taiwan once people here decide how to respond to it.
Maree Ma @maree_junThe moment a Chinese spy decided to defect to Australia. "@PLMattis says Wang’s disclosures are unprecedented and valuable – and also extraordinarily brave. Until now, the relatively small number of defectors have kept quiet." https://t.co/ovOujeAi3H via @theage
Someone needs to translate that article into English. And someone needs to analyse Wang’s claims and, importantly, language use. Looking at his language use can give us some insights into Wang’s credibility.
Australian politicians and officials do need to be cautious on their public statements on this before they can verify Wang’ claims. This may take some time. But I suspect this saga has just started and there are more revelations to come.
Now, I’m OFF for the weekend!
I expect intelligence agencies are verifying the authenticity of the claims made by Mr Wang. No doubt questions will be raised with regards to timing and motives.
So far, his claims have not contained any major surprises. The operations he described (such as Hong Kong protestors, Taiwan election, and student organisations) are well-known or long suspected. But details on identities and tactics could prove useful.
How the Australian Government handle this may affect decisions of future defectors from the PRC. However, the Government also needs to be very cautious, as negative repercussions can result if the claims turn out to be fabricated.
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