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”.
- China has thrown weight behind state media reports on alleged Australian spying
- A Chinese tabloid says authorities busted an Australian spying operation two years ago
- China’s Foreign Ministry said Australia “[plays] the part of the victim” and peddles rumours
On Monday, 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.
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 on Monday, 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.
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.