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Defector claims rare glimpse into life as a Chinese spy

Defector claims rare glimpse into life as a Chinese spy

Hong Kong: Black ops, abductions and betrayal –the Chinese operative who defected to Australia has provided an unverified but chilling glimpse into the life of an apparent spy who came in from the cold. In interviews with Australian media, Wang "William" Liqiang described how he gave Canberra a trove of intelligence on Beijing's espionage and political interference activities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Australia –operations that Wang says he was personally involved in.

The 27-year-old seemed an unlikely recruit –hailing from a middle-class family in the southeastern Fujian province, he studied oil painting at university. But he told Australian news outlets The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, and the TV program 60 Minutes of his almost accidental slide into the vortex of covert ops, which he initially embraced as a patriotic duty before fear and revulsion compelled him to betray his country.

"To be honest, for a Chinese this was attractive. It paid well and I also felt that I was doing things for the country," he was quoted saying.

"At the time the word 'spy' didn't cross our minds. We just thought those things were the tasks we needed to do for the country."

Beginning work in 2014 with a listed Hong Kong company that he says was a front for Chinese military intelligence, Wang said those tasks involved organising the infiltration of universities and media to counter the city's pro-democracy movement, including through physical or cyber-attacks against dissidents.

Wang told Australia media he personally helped organise the October 2015 kidnapping of Lee Bo, owner of a Hong Kong bookshop that Beijing said distributed dissident materials.

Four other bookshop employees were also spirited away to the mainland that year.

But Wang told Australian media the final straw was an order to deploy this year –under a fake South Korea passport –to Taiwan for covert interference in 2020 elections, with the aim of toppling President Tsai Ing-wen, whom Beijing despises for her anti-China views.

Wang related staring at the faked passport and feeling as though he stood on a personal precipice, at the bottom of which he saw "a person without (a) real identity".

Disgusted by China's ruthless methods, Wang said he turned his back on his homeland, defecting to Australia where his wife was studying and living with their toddler son. But the personal price will be heavy. Wang claims his and his wife's families are loyal Communist Party members –his father was a regional party official –and could now face retaliation. "Once I was found out, then my safety would be at stake. What would my family, my young son do? Who could protect me?" he said.

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