Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) is currently investigating claims that a Chinese espionage ring attempted to recruit an agent to run as a candidate in the last parliamentary election in a bid to place a spy in the the country’s parliament.

Reports published in media outlets including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program have alleged the prevalence of widespread Chinese spy networks in Australia and a foiled plot to install a Liberal Party candidate in Parliament.

In 2018, Bo "Nick" Zhao, a 31 year old a luxury car dealer, informed Asio that he had been offered $1 million by Melbourne businessman Brian Chen to run as a candidate of the governing Liberal Party. Zhao, was a Liberal party member in the parliamentary seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s suburbs.

Bo 'Nick' Zhao was found dead in a hotel room in Melbourne in March this year. The police are yet to determin the cause of his death.

Chinese state media has repatedely denied the allegations.

What has furthered queered the pitch on the on the allegations of Chinese espionage network are recent reports of another Chinese spy, Wang “William” Liqian defecting to Australia with a dossier of intelligence on China’s political operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere.

Wang “William” Liqian is said to have disclosed the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong and provided details of how they funded and conducted operations in Hong Kong and Australia.

Wang “William” Liqian is said to have admitted that he is involved in infiltration and disruption operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia. He is said to have provides details on how Beijing stealthily controls listed companies to fund intelligence operations, including the surveillance and profiling of dissidents and the co-opting of media organisations.

Lending further credence to the allegation that China has developed a well-oiled political espionage operation, a former ASIO chief Duncan Lewis warned that the Chinese government are mounting an “insidious” foreign interference operations to “take over” Australia’s political system.

Australia was the first country to bar Huawei, the Chinese telecoms group, from participating in its roll out of 5G, the next generation wireless technology.

Former PM Tony Abbott recently called for sanctions against China if it cracked down hard on pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

In 2017, Huang Xiangmo, a billionaire real estate magnate, who donated almost A$3m donations to both the Liberal and Labor party, was stripped of his Australian residency after being embroiled in a scandal involving Sam Dastyari, a Labor senator.

Dastyari was forced to quit the Senate after it emerged that he had advocate Australia to respect China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea in lieu of donation he accepted from Huang to pay his personal debts.

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