An unidentified Chinese government official has reportedly accused the Australian government of spying on the Chinese embassy and harassing Chinese citizens, according to a report from the nationalistic Chinese tabloid, the Global Times.
The report quotes an official who works for the “Chinese national security department” saying that Chinese citizens in Australia were being monitored by the Australian government. Australian agents would work to develop close relationships with these Chinese citizens, only to attempt to get them to turn against their home country, according to the report. Supposedly, Australian espionage efforts included the harassment and interrogation of Chinese citizens about their life in their homeland.
“In global covert struggles, Australia had never played the role of victim. However, they are wantonly working on intelligence about China and groundlessly accusing China of spying on them. The logic is ridiculous,” the anonymous security staffer reportedly told the Global Times.
China and Australia have significant business ties, but, for quite some time, there has been tension between Beijing and Canberra. Earlier this month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry was infuriated when the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) ran a provocative program which detailed alleged efforts by the Chinese government to “infiltrate” Australian society, politics and college campuses. After the program was broadcasted, the Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately publicly dismissed the accusation that a Chinese espionage network existed in Australia. Meanwhile, the Global Times helped to find Chinese students in Australia who were apparently aghast at the assertions that the Chinese government exercised undue influence on Australian campuses.
Over the past few months, media warfare has raged between the two nations. In early April, Feng Chongyi, a well-respected Chinese professor in Sydney, was prevented from leaving China for more than a week after meeting with academic and human rights lawyers in the country. Even more recently, it has been revealed that more than $4 million has been donated to major Australian political parties by Chau Chak Wing, a Chinese-Australian citizen who was formally a member of a Communist Party advisory group in China. This information spurred the Australian media to accuse China of attempting to compromise their government. Feng’s case, the political donations and the most recent espionage accusations have caused tensions to rise. Each country has accused the other of exaggerating claims and falsely reporting facts, resulting in a media stalemate.
Unsurprisingly, relations between the two countries probably aren’t going to be improving any time soon. The Chinese men’s table tennis team just removed itself from the upcoming International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Australian Open. While the team has publicly claimed that their withdrawal from the tournament is because they are in dire need of “rest,” the situation certainly does not help to mend Chinese-Australian relations.
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