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Australia China steps up attacks on Australia, says spying allegations just 'the tip of the iceberg'

06:50  30 june  2020
06:50  30 june  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

Chinese media levels Australian spy claim

  Chinese media levels Australian spy claim Chinese Communist Party-run tabloid Global Times has published claims that Australia is engaging in widespread spying against Beijing.The Chinese Communist Party-run Global Times tabloid accuses Australia of waging an intensifying espionage offensive through sending spies to China.

The Chinese government has labelled Australia a “fervent intelligence gatherer”, as it accuses “The Five Eyes intelligence alliance has long engaged in cyber espionage, spying and surveillance on foreign I am afraid that what is revealed by the Global Times this time is just the “ tip of the iceberg ”.

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said there was © Provided by ABC NEWS Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said there was "irrefutable evidence" of Australian spying. (Supplied)

China's Foreign Ministry has escalated its attacks on Australia, accusing the Federal Government of conducting espionage in China and calling tabloid claims of Australian spying the "tip of the iceberg".

Yesterday, the Chinese Government-owned Global Times published a story alleging that Chinese authorities had disrupted an Australian spy operation two years ago.

The nationalistic paper also posted pictures of items which it said had been seized, including cash, a compass and a map of Shanghai.

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Australian government officials ridiculed the claims in private, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed questions about the article by saying: "I wouldn't be relying on Chinese state media for your sources."

But late yesterday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian threw the Government's weight behind the Global Times story, saying there was "irrefutable evidence" of Australian spying in China.

"The Five Eyes intelligence alliance has long engaged in cyber espionage, spying and surveillance on foreign governments, companies and individuals. This is not a secret to anyone," he said.

"And Australia, an important member of the Five Eyes, has been a fervent intelligence gatherer in relevant countries. I am afraid that what is revealed by the Global Times this time is just the tip of the iceberg."

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The Five Eyes network comprises Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand and is used to share information and intelligence.

The latest verbal assault from Beijing comes as the relationship between China and Australia continues to deteriorate sharply.

Ten days ago, Mr Morrison declared that Australia was facing intensifying cyber attacks from a "state-based actor" which was putting pressure on public services and critical infrastructure.

Mr Morrison did not publicly name the country responsible, but officials told journalists that China was almost certainly the nation behind the online assault.

And last week, Australian authorities raided the office of New South Wales Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane as part of an investigation into allegations of Chinese Government interference in Australian politics.

But Mr Zhao said there was no "solid evidence" of Chinese Government interference in Australia, and accused the Morrison Government of hypocrisy.

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A leading Chinese virologist whose mysterious disappearance sparked speculation about the deadly novel coronavirus emanating from a bio-lab in Wuhan, was for the first time interviewed on China 's state television where she warned that such viruses are just the " tip of the iceberg " and expressed

"They steal information and data from other countries, jeopardising others' sovereignty and security," he said.

"But they play the part of the victim, peddling rumours and stoking confrontation by staging a farce of the thief crying 'stop thief'. They have long crossed the line."

Mr Zhao's comments were also sent to Australian reporters by the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

The Morrison Government's immediate response to the allegations was restrained.

"Consistent with long-standing practice by successive governments, we will not comment on intelligence matters," a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

"Australia's intelligence and security agencies are committed to protecting our national security, including the important work of countering the serious threat of foreign interference."

But the increasingly hostile language from the Chinese Government has fed into growing anxieties in Canberra that Beijing is preparing to take further steps to punish Australia.

In late 2018, Chinese authorities arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, seemingly in retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is facing charges in the United States.

Anne-Marie Brady from the University of Canterbury said it was possible that .

"I think that any Australians who remain in China should perhaps long ago have thought about returning, given the very strained relations," she told the ABC's PM program.

"There is a real risk that you can be caught up while being completely innocent of illegal activities."

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