Defecting Chinese Spy Reveals Regime’s Extensive Influence Operations

By Frank Fang, Epoch Times
November 26, 2019 Updated: November 28, 2019

Recent revelations by a man claiming to be a Chinese spy have made international headlines, blowing the lid off the regime’s espionage operations in Australia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Wang “William” Liqiang sought asylum in Australia and offered the country’s top intelligence agency a trove of information on how the communist Chinese regime funds and directs operations to sabotage the democratic movement in Hong Kong, meddle in Taiwanese elections, and infiltrate Australian political circles, according to a series of reports from Nov. 22 by Nine Network, an Australian media group.

His claims support longstanding concerns about Beijing’s attempts to subvert and undermine its opponents abroad.

In an earlier interview with the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times, the 27-year-old said he decided to defect after becoming disillusioned with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) malign ambitions.

“As I grew older and my worldview changed, I gradually realized the damage that the CCP’s authoritarianism was doing to democracy and human rights around the around,” Wang said.

“My opposition to the Party and communism became ever-clearer, so I made plans to leave this organization.”

Wang’s going public marks the first time a Chinese spy has blown his or her cover.

Recruitment

In a detailed statement provided to The Epoch Times, Wang describes how he came to work as a spy for the Chinese regime.

Wang hails from Fujian, the southeast Chinese province across the strait from democratic Taiwan. The son of a local Communist Party official, Wang had a middle-class upbringing and majored in oil painting at the Anhui University of Finance and Economics. Photos from Wang’s time in school show awards he won for his artwork.

At the end of his education, a senior university official suggested that Wang should work at China Innovation Investment Limited (CIIL), a Hong Kong-based company specializing in technology, finance, and media. In 2014, Wang began working with the firm.

While CIIL presents itself as an investment firm focusing on listed and unlisted Chinese defense assets, Wang soon discovered that it was a major front for the Party’s overseas espionage, serving multiple Chinese security organs and CCP officials.

According to Nine Network, Wang was in the good graces of CIIL CEO Xiang Xin and entered the “inner sanctum” of the company by giving Xiang’s wife painting lessons. That gave him wide access to information about both ongoing and past cases of Chinese intelligence operations, much of it connected to the Party’s acquisition of military technology.

Wang said Xiang and his wife, Kung Ching, were both Chinese agents. He said Xiang had changed his name from Xiang Nianxin to Xiang Xin before being sent by Chinese military officials to Hong Kong to acquire CIIL and investment company China Trends Holdings Limited.

On Nov. 24, Xiang and Kung were stopped by Taiwanese authorities at Taipei’s main airport and asked to cooperate in an investigation of suspected violations of the country’s National Security Act.

They both deny knowing Wang.

The Chinese regime has rejected Wang’s account, with police in Shanghai claiming he wasn’t an operative, but an unemployed 26-year-old who had previously been jailed for fraud.

The Chinese Embassy added in a statement on Nov. 24 that Wang is wanted in connection with a fraud case from earlier this year.

“On April 19, 2019, the Shanghai police opened an investigation into Wang, who allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan from a person surnamed Shu through a fake investment project involving car import in February,” the statement said.

The embassy said Wang left for Hong Kong on April 10, carrying a fake Chinese passport and a fake Hong Kong permanent resident ID, adding that Shanghai police were investigating the matter.

Hong Kong 

According to Wang, both CIIL and China Trends Holdings were controlled by the Chinese military, specifically the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department.

Both CIIL and China Trends Holdings have issued statements rejecting Wang’s claims, denying any involvement in espionage activities.

Xiang would provide “intelligence” reports to the PLA General Staff Department about individuals in Hong Kong who may have made comments critical of the Chinese regime or on other topics deemed sensitive by the Party, Wang said.

Xiang’s PLA handler also directed him to collect information on activists and Falun Gong adherents in the city.

Adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual practice have been persecuted by the regime since 1999, and have been subject to arbitrary detention, forced labor, brainwashing, and torture.

The two companies targeted students in the city, according to Wang. They set up an education foundation in Hong Kong to develop agents and promote Beijing’s policies to students in Hong Kong. The foundation received 500 million yuan (about $71 million) annually from the Chinese regime to carry out its operations.

Wang said he recruited mainland Chinese students to gather information about individuals and groups deemed a threat to the regime.

“I promoted the Chinese regime’s policies … to these students and had them collect intelligence on the Hong Kong independence [movement] and views opposing the regime,” Wang told The Epoch Times.

Most of the recruited Chinese students came from two Chinese universities: Nanjing University of Science and Technology in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, and Shantou University in southern China’s Guangdong Province.

He said that the Nanjing University of Science and Technology and other Chinese universities have alumni associations in Hong Kong, many of which have members who are Chinese agents.

Wang also said he was involved in an operation that led to the abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers in 2015. The booksellers later reappeared in detention in mainland China and participated in forced televised confessions.

Wang said the operation was organized by people inside CIIL in coordination with the PLA.

He said he was shocked that the regime was able to pull off the kidnappings.

“I didn’t think it was possible for the Chinese regime to arrest someone in Hong Kong because of ‘one country, two systems,’” Wang said, referring to the framework under which the regime pledged to afford the city a high level of autonomy and freedoms.

Taiwan 

Speaking to Vision Times, Wang said that the majority of infiltration activities in Taiwan were carried out by Xiang’s wife, Kung Ching.

The regime sees the self-ruled island as a renegade province and has never ruled out using military force to reunite it with the mainland. In recent years, it has stepped up efforts to infiltrate the media and influence elections in Taiwan.

Wang said he took part in the online campaign to attack Taiwan’s ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) prior to the general elections in November 2018, in an effort to support the opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), which has a Beijing-friendly stance.

He said that their group had more than 200,000 social media accounts, and many other fan pages to support their effort.

CIIL spent 1.5 billion yuan (about $213 million) on Taiwan’s media outlets alone to help in their efforts to influence the 2018 elections, he said.

Wang said they organized Chinese and Hong Kong students studying in Taiwan and Chinese tourists to aid in promoting pro-Beijing candidates running for the 2018 elections.

Overseas Chinese donations also went to pro-Beijing candidates, said Wang. More than 20 million yuan (about $2.8 million) went to Han Kuo-yu, who won a local election to become the mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung.

Han is now running for president as the KMT candidate.

For the 2018 elections, the DPP suffered a major defeat, losing seven of its regional seats to the KMT. The KMT now controls 15 cities and counties, compared to six held by the DPP.

Wang described the 2018 elections as a victory for the Chinese regime.

Wang said many of Taiwan’s elite were in their pocket, including the head of a local daily newspaper, the head of a university, the general manager of a cultural center, several politicians, and gang leaders. These people were each paid 2 million to 5 million yuan ($284,155 to $710,388) annually to assist Wang and his group in their infiltration efforts.

In the upcoming 2020 presidential election, Wang said Beijing’s goal is to unseat president Tsai Ing-wen’s reelection bid.

He said that Kung wanted him to go to Taiwan on May 28 to assist her in influence operations targeting Taiwan’s media and the internet. But he had a change of heart.

“I saw what’s happening in Hong Kong. And I didn’t want to personally turn Taiwan into Hong Kong. So I decided to quit,” Wang told Vision Times, referring to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s encroachment in the city.

So on April 23, Wang left his post in Hong Kong to visit his wife and baby son in Sydney, having been granted approval by Kung.

He is now staying at a secret location as he cooperates with the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, the country’s top intelligence agency.

Being in Australia, however, doesn’t guarantee safety, because Beijing has spy cells in the country who could abduct him and his family and send them back to China, Wang said.

Despite the risks, Wang stands by his decision to defect.

“I thought and rethought it time and time again,” Wang told The Epoch Times.

“I wondered if this decision would be a good thing or a bad thing for my life. I couldn’t tell you definitively, but I firmly believe that if I had stayed with [the CCP], I would come to no good end.”

Epoch Times staff Leo Timm contributed to this report. 

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer
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