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Australia is investigating claims that China paid R14 million to try and plant a Chinese politician into parliament

Rosie Perper , Business Insider US
 Nov 25, 2019, 01:32 PM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament House on November 25, 2019 in Canberra, Australia.
Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images
  • An Australian spy agency on Sunday said Australia was "actively investigating" allegations of Chinese political interference laid out during Nine News' "60 Minutes" program.
  • The program on Sunday claimed that Nick Zhao, a 32-year-old Liberal Party member and Melbourne luxury car dealer, was offered $1 million (R14 million) by Chinese agents to run in the federal elections and infiltrate the country's parliament.
  • He refused the offer and instead told Australia's spy agency. He was later found dead in a Melbourne hotel room.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the allegations as "deeply disturbing and troubling," but said that the government was taking harder steps to address foreign interference.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

An Australian spy agency on Sunday said Australia was "actively investigating" allegations of Chinese political interference laid out during Nine News' "60 Minutes" program.

The program on Sunday claimed that Nick Zhao, a 32-year-old Liberal Party member and Melbourne luxury car dealer, was offered $1 million (R14 million) by Chinese agents to run in the federal elections and infiltrate the country's parliament.

Instead of taking the offer, Zhao told the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) about the deal, the program said, citing sources with knowledge of the plot.

Zhao was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March, according to "60 Minutes."

The program also aired an interview with Wang "William" Leqiang, a 27-year-old man claiming to be a Chinese spy who is now seeking political refuge in Australia. Wang told "60 Minutes" that Beijing spies operate in Australia and have tried to influence politics.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the allegations as "deeply disturbing and troubling," but said that the government was taking harder steps to address foreign interference.

"I can assure Australians that under our government, the resources have never been stronger, the laws have never been tougher, and the government has never been more determined to keep Australians free and safe from foreign interference."

Director-General of Security of ASIO, Mike Burgess, said in a statement on Sunday that it was taking the allegations laid out in "60 Minutes" seriously.

"Australians can be reassured that ASIO was previously aware of matters that have been reported today, and has been actively investigating them," he wrote. "Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security."

China has since dismissed Wang's allegations and have accused him of being a convicted fraud, according to Nine News.

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