Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he is deeply disturbed by allegations that the Chinese government attempted to have an agent elected to the country’s parliament.
In an article published in Nine Network newspapers on Sunday, the Chinese government is accused of offering 1 million Australian dollars ($679,500) for a Chinese-Australian citizen to contest a federal seat.
The citizen, 32-year-old Bo “Nick” Zhao, allegedly declined. He was found dead in a Melbourne motel room in March this year, and local authorities have been unable to conclude how he died.
Speaking in Canberra on Monday, Morrison said Australia was “not naive” about the threats it faces from other countries.
“That’s why we strengthened the laws, that’s why we increased the resources (for intelligence agencies),” Morrison said. “I find the allegations deeply disturbing and troubling.”
CNN has not been able to confirm any details of the Nine Network report. On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that Beijing had never – and would never – interfere in another country’s affairs.
“Recently some Australian politicians, organizations and media have shown a high degree of tension on the issues involving China. Some might have been in a state of panic,” he said.
“They constantly fabricate the so-called Chinese spies and infiltration into Australia. I think no matter how extraordinary the plot is or how the trick has been refurbished, the lie is eventually a lie.”
In a statement released Sunday, Australia’s director-general of security Mike Burgess said authorities took the report “seriously,” while not confirming the specific contents.
“Australians can be reassured that (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) was previously aware of matters that have been reported today, and has been actively investigating them,” he said.
The Sunday article followed earlier claims that an alleged Chinese spy named Wang Liqiang had tried to defect to Australia, allegedly offering a trove of information on Beijing’s intelligence operations.
CNN has not been able to verify Wang’s claims.