Australia’s peak domestic intelligence service believes that 10 recent political candidates for local and state governments have links to Chinese intelligence agencies.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) said one of those candidates was elected to office and is currently still there, reported The Weekend Australian on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Officials from the intelligence agency say what is occurring is part of efforts by Beijing to influence Australian politics, said the report.
The majority of the candidates who are thought to have close ties with Chinese intelligence and China’s ruling Communist Party were involved in council elections.
However, the report said Australian security officials are concerned about individuals at both state and federal levels of politics.
The reports said that ASIO’s concerns are focused around Western Sydney.
Chen Yonglin, a former Chinese diplomat who defected in dramatic style in 2005, told the paper that there are very obvious attempts by the Chinese government to influence opinions in Australia.
“In Australia, it seems there’s no limitation at all, the Chinese do it publicly,” Chen said.
“It seems they are above the law in Australia. They are braver than their activity in the U.S.,” he said.
ASIO flags Manchurian candidates https://t.co/3KldOvx8eL
— Louisa Lim (@limlouisa) December 9, 2017
Saturday’s report comes after widespread media reports about efforts by China’s Communist Party to interfere with Australian politics as well as areas within the broader community – especially among the Chinese-Australian community.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday said he took reports that China’s Communist Party had sought to interfere in his country very seriously.
“Media reports have suggested that the Chinese Communist Party has been working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities and even the decisions of elected representatives right here in this building. We take these reports very seriously,” Turnbull said, according to Reuters.
The attention of Australian public over the past two weeks has been on the dealings between Australian Labor Party (ALP) senator Sam Dastyari and a Beijing-linked Chinese billionaire.
The federal government has called on Dastyari to resign because he allegedly warned Chinese Communist Party-linked Huang Xiangmo that his phone was likely being tapped by intelligence services, including those of the U.S. government.
The senator also received negative press recently over a 2016 speech when he publicly backed Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea. His comments, made while standing next to Huang, were contradictory to that of his party’s and the Australian government’s policy on the issue.
.@smh: An explosive tape recording reveals that Senator Sam Dastyari delivered a scripted, deliberate and detailed defence of China’s aggressive land grab in the South China Sea. #headsup pic.twitter.com/o817t0wJus
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) November 29, 2017
Charles Wallace, a former Australian intelligence officer, said that the Chinese work towards having well-placed sleeper agents in key positions.
“The most common method China uses to influence our political process is via ‘agents of influence,’” Wallace wrote for the Canberra Times.
“Some of these agents are dual citizens of China and Australia,” he wrote.
“Their aim is to bribe current and past politicians to support China’s interests, sometimes to the detriment of Australia’s.”
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