ABC has no credibility on strangely timed Chinese ‘spy’ stories

May 15, 2024
Chinese intelligence concept, ear on the flag of China. 3D rendering. Image: iStock/ AlexLMX

To say Australian media has a poor record of getting things right in relation to Chinese ‘spying’ allegations is an understatement. It’s possible, in almost every media outlet for anyone who knows anything about China, to look beyond the headline and see an entirely different story; the ABC’s latest offering is no exception.

As a former police officer, I know a little about police investigations, as a long-term resident of China, with post graduate qualifications related to Chinese psychology, I know a little about China too. I don’t claim expertise but I do see a different story.

In the event of a crime, especially a serious crime, the investigating officer looks for suspects, usually evidence points in one direction but any allegations are made on the assumption of innocence. To prove an allegation, evidence is collated, examined, cross examined, challenged and considered by either a magistrate or a jury to determine guilt or otherwise. If there is any doubt at all, then there should be no conviction.

Such frustrations do not exist for media though, where there is doubt, they simply change headlines to questions that protect the writer and the media outlet. They offer speculation using anonymous sources and they omit information which contradicts their narrative. They place enough doubt in the minds of media consumers to think there must be some fire because there’s a lot of smoke. Many mainstream media reports about China have smoke, but usually lack fire; allegations which lack evidence.

The latest ABC offering is no different.It’s about a “defecting Chinese spy” called Eric. Eric apparently has given his story to ASIO. ASIO, in their wisdom have declined to comment on the ABC story. Strangely, a few years ago, another so-called defecting Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, also gave his story to ASIO. ASIO told Nick McKenzie from 60 Minutes they thought he was a fraud. 60 Minutes ran with the story and for weeks Australians believed there was a Chinese spy living amongst them. China responded to the story claiming that Wang was a fraud and was on the run from criminal charges in Shanghai.

Fast forward and the real story emerged, he wasn’t a Chinese government employee, he was employed by a Taiwanese company, the owners of which have been charged with fraud. He managed, despite his refugee status to amass over $3 million in Australia and that money has now been frozen by Australian courts. It seems China was right, ASIO was right and the 60 Minutes team were wrong.

In their latest attempts to smear China, Four Corners used sources such as Safeguard Defenders, founded by an alleged Swedish spy, Peter Dahlin who was deported from China after a videotaped confession that he was endangering national security.

Dahlin is also the author of a report suggesting there are hundreds of these “secret police stations” in 53 different countries. This is also an allegation lacking evidence. The report was released in 2022 and, to this date, not a single court case or conviction has occurred anywhere in the world.

 Two men were arrested in April 2023 in New York City, 13 months later, neither have been charged with any offence. Dahlin’s report, as with Four Corners reports, make allegations but lack evidence. Police don’t act on allegations.

There are allegations of harassment of families back home in China and again, my experience as a police officer is useful to explain the reasoning behind this; it’s part of every ongoing investigation by any police service anywhere, the Australian police also do it. The investigating officer establishes where the suspect lives and visits the last known address, sometimes with a warrant for the arrest of the suspect.

However, they may find the suspect is not there and has fled overseas. So, they ask the family to suggest the suspect contacts them. Crimes don’t go away, there are statutes of limitations for some but not for serious crimes, so when a suspect has fled, the police officer will explain: this isn’t going away, there’s a warrant out for their arrest and they would do better to come home, sort it out and then get on with the rest of their life. This is good police work, unless it’s in China; then it’s reported as oppression or harassment.

Apparently the Australian Federal Police (AFP) also raided a site in 2023 and uncovered “evidence” of something but none of this evidence is mentioned, once again, allegations lacking the support needed to confirm them. And, once again, not one person has been arrested or charged with an offence related to that raid in 2023.

While there are several allegations, Four Corners provides only one named example given of a story of someone being repatriated to China but concedes, the Chinese Embassy and Consulate Generals did help and that permission was sought from the AFP, and this was in 2019, five years ago.

We are being led to believe that China is a current threat, a real danger with secret operations going on in our backyards. The ABC would like us all to believe that China has many, if not hundreds of, mini-James Bonds operating in our neighbourhoods. The reality is, everything China has been proven to have done in Australia was done with the knowledge and approval of the AFP, all the other things are allegations, speculation and much of it based on the words of wanted criminals.

As a result of these unfounded and unproven allegations, Australia has an adversarial relationship with China and supposedly cooperative relationship with India and yet, it’s India operating spies in the country who needed to be expelled.

The last Chinese person expelled from Australia was a billionaire Zheng Jiefu, his visa was revoked and he had to leave. He was not convicted nor was he even charged. The last “Chinese person” convicted was not even Chinese, Sunny Duong was born in Vietnam and is an Australian citizen who appears to have been convicted for something he might have been planning to do, rather than something he actually did. He literally gave a donation to a hospital through a serving MP and that was deemed to be a potential for foreign influence.

Looking beyond the headlines, Australians are being led to believe China is an adversary and yet, all the real evidence, the evidence ASIO actually acts on, seems to point in a different direction – towards threats to Australia’s sovereignty from countries we’re supposed to share values and intelligence with.

 

Article updated May 18, 2024.

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