China releases video supposedly showing ex-spy Wang Liqiang appearing in court on fraud charge

Beijing has amped up efforts to discredit a man claiming to be a former Chinese spy, who is seeking asylum in Australia and has given Canberra information, alleging Chinese political interference abroad.

On Wednesday, Chinese state media released video footage it said showed Wang Liqiang, who is attempting to defect to Australia, in a Chinese court on trial for fraud in October 2016. The footage shows the man purported to be Mr Wang confessing to fraud, begging a judge for leniency and saying he has “weak legal awareness”.

The Global Times newspaper, which is controlled by the Chinese government, said Mr Wang had committed “fraudulent activities” outside China and was guilty of “making up a series of fake stories that throw shade at China backed by Western media speculation.” 

It added that “all the evidence points toward the fact that Wang is merely a fraudster spouting nonsense and mixing up black and white,” and that Mr Wang was “a new tool for the West to smear China.”

Mr Wang gave information about Beijing’s alleged meddling in Australian politics and Chinese Communist Party (CPP) influence in Hong Kong, plus the CCP’s alleged plans to disrupt Taipei’s presidential election, set to take place in January 2020.

He said that as part of his work as a spy for China he gave money to Taiwanese politicians.

He said he was also ordered to infiltrate universities and student groups in Hong Kong.

The allegations from Mr Wang, who is from southeast China’s Fujian province, prompted Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen’s Democratic Progressive Party to call China the “enemy of democracy”.

As Mr Wang waits to find out if his asylum bid in Australia has been successful, Chinese authorities are attempting to portray him as an untrustworthy fraudster. Chinese police have claimed he had a forged passport and Hong Kong resident document, as well as a fraud conviction from 2016.

Also this week, Australian authorities investigated allegations that Chinese agents attempted to pay a Chinese-Australian man, Bo "Nick" Zhao, to run for a seat in Australia’s parliament. Mr Zhao told Australian security officials about the approach, then in March 2019 was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room. His cause of death has not been established.

Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, called the allegations relating to Mr Zhao “deeply disturbing”.

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