Australia investigates China plot to plant spy in Parliament

Australia investigates China plot to plant spy in Parliament

SeattlePI.com

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that allegations of a Chinese plot to plant an agent into Australia’s Parliament are “deeply disturbing and troubling.”

The Nine Network on Sunday aired explosive accusations that suspected Chinese operatives had offered Melbourne luxury car dealer Bo “Nick” Zhao 1 million Australian dollars ($679,000) to run as a candidate for a parliamentary seat in Melbourne.

The 32-year-old was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March after reportedly approaching ASIO, Australia’s counterespionage agency. Police have been unable to determine how he died.

“The government has never been more determined to keep Australians free and safe from foreign interference,” Morrison told reporters. “I would caution anyone leaping to any conclusions about these matters.”

ASIO director-general of security Mike Burgess said late Sunday that the allegations are serious.

"Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security,” he said. “ASIO will continue to confront and counter foreign interference and espionage in Australia.”

Parliamentary intelligence committee chief Rep. Andrew Hastie called for an investigation into Zhao’s death.

"This isn't just cash in a bag, given for favors. This is a state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system," he told the Nine Network.

Earlier this month, Hastie said he and fellow Liberal Party member Sen. James Paterson had been barred entry to China for a study trip because of their criticism of the Chinese government.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that...

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