SYDNEY (DPA) - The Chinese embassy in Canberra has said that the man seeking political asylum in Australia as a defecting former spy is a convicted fraudster wanted on criminal charges in China.
Newspapers from media group Nine reported on Saturday (Nov 23) that Mr Wang "William" Liqiang had provided a trove of Chinese spying secrets to Australia's counter-espionage agency ASIO since he decided to defect in May.
China responded to the claims on Sunday saying that the 26-year-old man is a convicted fraud who is under investigation for allegedly running a fake investment project.
"The man ... was sentenced to one year and three months in prison for fraud with a suspended sentence of a year and half by the court of Guangze county in Fujian in October 2016," the Chinese embassy said in a statement.
It added that Shanghai police opened an investigation into Mr Wang in April for an alleged fake car importation scam, and that he had left China on a fake passport.
Mr Wang has claimed to be involved in covert operations to undermine Hong Kong's democracy movement and efforts to interfere in the political system in Taiwan.
"This is the main reason I came to Australia to seek asylum. Once I was found out, my safety would be at stake," Mr Wang said during a video interview with Channel Nine television, which will be broadcast in full on Sunday night.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on the national broadcaster ABC on Sunday morning that Mr Wang's case was in the hands of Australian security agencies, but declined to comment on an "operational matter".