Taiwan authorities have charged an alleged Chinese spy and his wife with money laundering after they were identified by self-confessed Chinese intelligence operative Wang Liqiang who defected to Australia.
Businessman Xiang Xin and his wife Gong Qing, both directors of the company Wang says employed him to run interference operations, were detained at Taiwan’s main airport in November 2019 as they tried to leave the country after reports in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes identified Xian as a Chinese spy.
Wang Liqiang defected to Australia. Credit:Steven Siewert
The Taipei District Prosecutors Office announced on Thursday it had filed charges of money laundering against the couple, while they were also under investigation under the country’s National Security Act.
According to a report in Taiwan publication United Daily News, the prosecution’s investigation found Xiang and Gong received $HKD203 million in illegal profits. The prosecution also said they were suspected of violating the National Security Act and travel bans had been placed on them.
Wang Liqiang, who in 2019 sought political protection in Australia, said he had worked as an agent for China and had helped interfere in Hong Kong’s democracy movement and Taiwan’s municipal elections.
Wang said he worked for a Hong Kong-based company, China Innovation Investment Limited (CIIL), a front set up to interfere on behalf of China. The company denied the claims and said Wang did not work there, while the Chinese declared he was a fraud.
CIIL’s two directors, Xiang and Gong were stopped at Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport by the country’s Investigation Bureau on November 24, and were prevented from leaving the country. Prosecutors had twice extended the exit ban on them and had until April 14 to charge them under Taiwanese law.
Wang was the first Chinese operative to ever blow his cover in Australia, and he revealed the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong, as well as providing details of how they fund and conduct political interference operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
As of late 2019, Wang had taken his material to Australia’s counter-espionage agency, ASIO, and was seeking political asylum, but his whereabouts now are unknown.
According to multiple Australian government sources, security agencies in the United States were also interested in the information and material Wang had to provide. At the time of his defection, Wang said his main task was coordinating the relationships between his organisation and other intelligence agencies and “collecting information related to pro-independence” activists. He claimed he took instructions from Chinese military intelligence officials.
A notice issued in the Australian media on Thursday said that CIIL and its directors had commenced legal action in Hong Kong against Wang for libel and malicious falsehood. The notice said Wang “has no known address” and his “last known place of abode is Sydney, Australia”.
According to independent researcher Alex Joske, Xiang had extensive ties to parts of the People’s Liberation Army that were active in political interference and espionage.
Mr Joske said some Australian commentators were sceptical of Wang’s claims, but they didn’t seem to be across details of the case.
“Wang’s claims seemed to challenge the conventional understanding of military intelligence,” Mr Joske said.
“The Chinese government quickly hit back with its counter-narrative, claiming Wang was a convicted fraudster. Xiang Xin even denied knowing Wang. This was the beginning of the bogus claim that Wang was an agent for Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party.”
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