Australia investigates Chinese Communist Party infiltration in New South Wales

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Foreign Interference Task Force is investigating an alleged plot by the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate New South Wales Parliament through the office of Labor backbencher Shaoquett Moselmane, using his former staffer John Zhang, ABC News reports.

The AFP is investigating whether Zhang used a chat group on the Chinese social media platform, WeChat, to encourage Moselmane to advocate for the Chinese government's interests.

The senior Chinese journalists and academics who visas were revoked have been drawn into the investigation over the alleged infiltration because they were members of the WeChat group.

They include: the Australia bureau chief of China News Service, Tao Shelan; China Radio International's Sydney bureau chief Li Dayong; prominent Chinese scholar and media commentator Professor Chen Hong; and another leading Australian studies scholar, Li Jianjun.

Zhang categorically denies the AFP's allegations and is challenging the investigation in the High Court.

According to documents filed by Zhang in the High Court, the AFP alleges he and others "concealed or failed to disclose to Moselmane that they were acting on behalf of or in collaboration with Chinese State and Party apparatus.''

The investigation has stoked an escalating diplomatic crisis between China and Australia, which has seen ABC correspondent Bill Birtles and Australian Financial Review journalist Michael Smith evacuated from China this week and a third Australian, TV news anchor Cheng Lei, detained last month and accused of endangering national security.

The AFP-ASIO investigation became public in late June, when the task force raided NSW Parliament and searched the homes and offices of Moselmane and Zhang, seizing their devices and communications.