Updated May 24th, 2021 at 19:14 IST
China's CCP 'most active' in trying to influence Australian politics covertly: Report
China’s Communist Party (CCP) is by far “most active” in trying to influence Australia’s politics, identified Australian intelligence after 500 incidents.
China’s Communist Party (CCP) is by far the “most active” in trying to influence politics in Australia and its politicians, identified Australian intelligence after monitoring 500 recent incidents of covert foreign agents interfering in the domestic politics of the island nation. As per news agency ANI, in an interview for the new book ‘Red Zone’ by correspondent Peter Hartcher, a senior intelligence official said that there were nearly 500 known or suspected cases of foreign interference and espionage in the second half of 2020.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official revealed that the qualifiers were “known or suspected.” Not all suspected cases were verified by the Australian intelligence and the possibility of of several undetected cases was also acknowledged. ANI quoted another report by Sydney Morning Herald stating, “Several countries are behind such activity but officials have said that the Chinese Communist Party is by far the most active in trying to influence Australian politicians and political processes covertly.”
Back in 2017, the former head of Australian spy agency ASIO, Duncan Lewis said that the agency was being overwhelmed with foreign interference and espionage. In 2018 he said that it was happening at unprecedented levels. Reportedly, ASIO’s last public update stated that it tackled over 30 cases in 2020 and only a handful was made public. The present head of ASIO, Mike Burgess said that the covert agents of foreign powers made up just a minority of diaspora communities.
"It is important to understand that ASIO works with - not against - diaspora communities as we seek to help and protect them," he said in an interview for the book as per ANI.
"I am always at pains to distinguish between diaspora communities on the one hand and the foreign governments and their intelligence services that are conducting foreign interference on the other," he added.
Turnbull’s govt toughened laws against espionage, interference
Notably, Australia’s previous government of Malcolm Turnbull had made stricter laws for both espionage and interference in 2018 with the full backing of the Labor opposition. Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government allocated funding for a joint ASIO-Australian Federal Police task force to enforce the laws.
The uncovering of the Chinese Communist Party’s ‘active’ interference in Australian politics came as tensions between both nations have escalated in recent months. The differences have led to a point where the Chinese state media threatened ballistic missile strikes if Canberra gets involved in a potential military conflict with Taiwan, the self-ruled democratic island claimed by Beijing.
(With inputs from ANI)
Published May 24th, 2021 at 19:14 IST