hanghai police have said that a man claiming to be an important Chinese spy who is defecting to Australia is really nothing more than an ex-con and fugitive who is wanted for fraud.
Wang Liqiang made global headlines over the weekend through interviews with Australian media in which he described himself as a Chinese secret agent who had carried out a number of political interference operations in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
According to Wang, he was directly involved in some of the most of Chinese infamous ops in recent years, including:
- Taking part in the kidnapping of the Hong Kong booksellers back in 2015.
- Coordinating a “cyber army” to meddle in Taiwan’s elections.
- Contacting pro-Beijing media outlets to help drum up support for Kuomintang candidates and Han Kuo-yu.
- Overseeing the infiltration of Hong Kong pro-democracy groups and student associations.
- Recruiting mainland students in Hong Kong with scholarships, travel grants, and an education foundation.
- Working with a listed company in Hong Kong to counter the pro-democracy movement.
Wang said that he fears he will be killed if he returns to China and therefore is seeking asylum in Australia where his wife and newborn child live.
He has been described as the “first Chinese operative to blow his cover,” providing Australian intelligence with a 17-page statement detailing how China conducts its political interference operations and identifying Chinese spymasters.
Condemned to a life under threat, Wang Liqiang says he hopes his revelations will inspire those fighting for freedom of speech and democracy in the face of oppression from Beijing. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/MycopzLBOZ
— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) November 24, 2019
However, Shanghai police have painted a far different portrait of Wang, describing him instead as a 26-year-old man from Nanping city, Fujian province, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud in October 2016.
Police added that Wang has no job and is currently wanted by police in Shanghai’s Jing’an district for defrauding an individual out of 4.6 million yuan ($650,000) through a fake investment scheme involving imported autos.
According to the police statement, Wang left for Hong Kong on April 10 carrying a fake Chinese passport and Hong Kong ID card.
It’s not only Chinese police who have rejected Wang’s spy claims. Taiwanese military intelligence officers have also called him a “joke” and a “fraud” in interviews. In an article, the former deputy head of military intelligence in Taiwan even listed 10 reasons why Wang should be viewed with suspicion, including:
- His age; 26 is quite young for the responsibilities he claims and he would have been only 22 years old when the Hong Kong booksellers were being abducted.
- His apparent lack of military rank or even military experience.
- His apparent lack of foreign language skills. He conducts interviews in Chinese and appears to barely speak English.
- His claims to have worked in both Hong Kong and Taiwan as opposed to focusing on one single area.
- His wife has been living in Australia, something that likely would not be allowed for a Chinese agent.
- His lack of understanding of which Chinese agencies do what. He even gets the names wrong.
These doubts have been echoed by other analysts who have also questioned why the operations he claims to have worked on are all already known in the public domain and why he hasn’t revealed any new credible details.
Meanwhile, reporter Zhaoyin Feng has dug up some more information regarding lawsuits issued against the Wang Liqiang described by police including multiple loan disputes.
Shanghai police said the defected Chinese spy Wang Liqiang is in fact a criminal in China. They released info about a Wang, DOB April 18, 1993, involved in a fraud case in Guangze, Fujian in 2015.
I tried to find out more about this Wang, who seems to have footprints in Anhui. pic.twitter.com/lQxHRcjxmx
— Zhaoyin Feng 馮兆音 (@ZhaoyinFeng) November 23, 2019
Oh, there’s also this.
Something odd to note about this story: the fake South Korean passport mentioned here is incredibly amateur.
The English and Korean names don't match, and it's a woman's name.
— 존파워/John Power (@John_F_Power) November 23, 2019
Considering all this, the nationalistic Global Times tabloid has been quick to gloat with a story titled “‘Chinese spy’ makes fool of Western media.”
If Wang does turn out to be a fraud, it won’t only be the media who look foolish. A number of Australian officials have already voiced their support for granting Wang asylum including prominent Liberal MP Andrew Hastie who declared on Sunday that anyone willing to help Australia defend its sovereignty “deserves protection.”
Fraud or not, Wang’s claims have already led to an actual response from Taiwan which detained Xiang Xin, the executive director of Hong Kong’s China Innovation Investment Limited whom Wang named as a Chinese spymaster, as he was flying out of Taoyuan airport on Sunday night.