An Australian Wilderness of Mirrors

I read Wilderness of Mirrors a long time ago, after I had previously read CIA Diary and have been fascinated by the world of espionage ever since. So I will say this: whatever may be the truth or otherwise about Wang Liqiang who describes himself as a Chinese operative in Australia, this cannot yet be known to be true: Wang Liqiang: Beijing bit player at best as cloak-and-dagger claims fall away.

Wang claimed to have interfered with elections in Taiwan, ­infiltrated the student movement in Hong Kong and played a role in the kidnapping of the Causeway Bay Five, a group of Hong Kong booksellers snatched from Hong Kong and rendered to the Chinese mainland.

But five days on and multiple security sources have told The Weekend Australian the consensus view inside the security establishment is that while Wang’s claims are still being investigated, he is not the high-level operative-turned-defector he claimed to be. The Chinese Foreign Ministry was quick to denounce Wang, at the same time offering breezy assurances that China would never dream of meddling in the affairs of another state.

So think of this:

Australian Strategic Policy ­Institute executive director Peter Jennings said Wang’s confession had given Australian agencies an unprecedented insight into ­Beijing’s espionage activities. “We have, for the first time, direct and clear understandings from a ­Chinese intelligence operator himself about what China is doing in this country,” he said.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who was involved in brokering Wang’s contact with ASIO and who appeared on the 60 Minutes broadcast, called him “a friend of democracy’’. “Anyone who’s willing to assist us in defending our sovereignty deserves our protection,” Hastie said.

The one possibility that can almost certainly be discounted is that Wang was sent by the Chinese themselves as a form of misdirection. That he was a bit player is no reason not to take him seriously. The question is whether he is a fantasist with no genuine knowledge or insight into anything of the Chinese spy apparatus. One way or another you will not know within a week. Let me finish with this from the case against:

“It is highly unusual for one junior intelligence operative (our assumption given his current 27 years of age) to play a big role in all these high-profile operations in different jurisdictions in a short period of time,’’ wrote Adam Ni, a researcher from Macquarie University and co-editor of China ­Neican, a newsletter aimed at ­“decoding” Chinese politics.

AND NOW THIS ALSO AT THE OZ: Security agencies wary of Andrew Hastie’s asylum call for ‘spy’. Let me just say that no one is going to do anything about our China policy no matter what is discovered based on this chap, one way or the other. But there is nothing wrong either with the story being given a public airing either. This is from the latest effort to downplay this issue.

Concerns have been raised at senior levels of Australia’s intelligence and security community about Liberal MP Andrew Hastie’s call for an alleged former Chinese spy to be granted asylum ahead of the formal assessing of his case.

Mr Hastie, who carries auth­ority as chairman of the federal parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, was quick to urge the Morrison government to give Wang Liqiang its “protection” as the first Chinese operative to blow his cover.

The West Australian Liberal, a former Special Air Service Regiment captain, is supported by China watchers who back his persistent criticism of Beijing for meddling in the sovereign affairs of other nations, and for its human rights record.

Top intelligence sources say an ASIO assessment could conclude Mr Wang is a former Beijing agent, as he claims, with intimate knowledge of covert Chinese operations in Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. But they also told The Weekend Australian, while not discounting Mr Hastie’s views, that the 27-year-old’s behaviour was highly unusual.

It might just be worth mentioning that nothing of any significance has ever been revealed that showed Joe McCarthy was anything other than 99% correct in everything he had said. We have enemies and they really do want to do us harm.

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