Chinese Lecturer-Turned-Spy Flees to Australia Seeking Asylum

February 14, 2007 Updated: February 14, 2007

A former Chinese intelligence agent has defected to Australia from Hong Kong in an urgent attempt to expose the under-the-carpet espionage tactics used by the Chinese communist regime.

His story carries all the traits of the former Soviet-style intimidation—abduction, coercion, blackmail and, ultimately, death threats.

Thirty-two year old Wang Lian, who arrived in Sydney on February 7 on a visitor's visa, explains how he was forced to provide information about the inner workings of The Epoch Times Hong Kong news bureau.

According to Mr Wang, The Epoch Times is the only newspaper in the former British colony of Hong Kong to be beyond the jurisdiction of the communist Central Government's control and has been labeled as a “serious” threat by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to its uncensored reporting on China.

Terror Begins

Mr Wang, employed by The Epoch Times since 2002 as senior technical support, describes his “recruitment” as part of a vast spy network that has penetrated China, Hong Kong and abroad.

For Mr Wang, his “recruitment” occurred on September 12, 2006 on a trip to Zhu Hai City in China. As an assistant professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology, he was traveling to Zhu Hai City to discuss a possible joint project with another university. While at customs, Mr Wang was abducted by the Chinese authorities.

“As I was passing through customs at Gongbei [Guangdong Province] I was unexpectedly detained. I was taken to a small room and two hours later ten people walked in, some were dressed in police uniforms whilst others were in casual dress.

“After confirming my identity, they blindfolded me, took away my watch and mobile phone and took me by force to a van parked outside.

“I didn't know how long we traveled in the van, but finally I was brought into a room and pushed to the ground,” said Mr Wang in a statement.

He remained in the room, which was no bigger than three by three meters, for the next three and a half days.

“All the windows in the room were sealed with nails and the curtains were drawn. There was a camera inside the room. Three men were waiting behind an interrogation desk. A small stool was placed in front of the desk. It was apparently for me to sit on during the interrogation.

“The three told me that they were from the national intelligence agency in Zhu Hai. I asked them why I was kidnapped here and they replied: 'You should know your own problems.'

“I told them I didn't know and after a little while they said: 'It is because you work for The Epoch Times in Hong Kong.'”

The police who kidnapped him were allegedly from the National Security Bureau, which has jurisdiction over normal police forces.

Their aim was to force Mr Wang to agree to become a “mole” inside The Epoch Times Hong Kong office, and to sabotage its operations by causing “disintegration from within.”

Mental Torment Most Painful

Mr Wang was placed under 24-hour surveillance while in detention. He recalls the constant threats he received which put him in mental anguish. Mr Wang was accused of committing the crime of distributing the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party —an editorial series published by The Epoch Times that details the background and inner workings of the communist party's rule in China.

Mr Wang was also active in the campaign against the anti-sedition law—commonly referred to as “Article 23” in Hong Kong in 2002. The controversial draft legislation attracted international attention and almost one million Hong Kong residents protested the attempt by the Chinese regime to deplete the powers of the SAR [Special Administrative Region] Government and its citizens.

His wife and three-year old son were used by the interrogators to blackmail him into submission.

“[The interrogators] would say: 'You have family, you have a wife, you have your parents, you have a little child…you think about it…what will happen to them…you think about,'” Mr Wang recalls them saying.

Mr Wang was also grilled repeatedly with the same questions regarding the operations of The Epoch Times. He was under continuous watch and deprived of sleep.

“You can not fall asleep at all. No sleep for 72 hours…even if I wanted I could not fall asleep,” he says. “I was in a small room. Stayed there 24-hours. If I go to the toilet, no doors. They were always watching.”

A File Two Inches Thick

It seems Mr Wang was being monitored for years before being finally recruited to the spy network. He says that a detailed report was collected on him for at least four years. It contained information about his personal life, work and spiritual involvements which include his practice of Falun Gong since 1998. He recalls seeing a file two inches thick while sitting in the interrogation room.

“It was all about me. I was apparently recommended as 'good material' by another agent [prior to being abducted].”

Even more astounding is that he estimates that at least 30 officers were assigned to his case alone. About 10 people accompanied him from customs and during the time of the detention, there was a constant rotation of guards in pairs who changed four to five times.

The Spying Begins

After days of intimidation, Mr Wang weakened and signed a statement to agree to work for the CCP. He claims it was the most painful decision he had to make in his life.

“I had to write it myself. After I finished, they made me add an extra sentence at the end, which said: 'I will come whenever asked, and do whatever asked to do,'” he says.

“After I signed, they laughed and relaxed.

“Personally I felt very dirty. I could not work and watch other staff of The Epoch Times. We are friends, good friends. I can not live for even one day,” said Mr Wang.

For the next five months he removed certain files from The Epoch Times computers, but was careful to avoid giving away any sensitive information. Among the information provided to the CCP agents were files of the past editions of the newspaper.

He was also forced to reveal the detailed computer plan of the office, including information about who was using which machine and at what time. Mr Wang believes that this was meant to facilitate hacking into the systems by CCP officers.

“I felt tortured from inside. If I continue this work and one day the CCP collapse… my family, my wife and kids will have a bad reputation…to say that I was a spy,” he says.

Decision to Escape

After months of deliberation, Mr Wang decided to apply for a visitor's visa to Australia and Canada. The approval to Australia came through on January 25. However, he is worried about his wife and three-year-old son who remain in Hong Kong.

Since his arrival in Australia he has been contacting them secretly.

Mr Wang is now seeking protection from the Australian Government and applying for a Humanitarian Protection visa.