Australian government lawyer names China in interference investigation

SYDNEY: Australia has named China in a court document as the foreign state under investigation by police in its first foreign interference investigation, though Beijing dismissed the allegation as an anti-China smear.

Ties between Australia and its biggest trading partner have been plagued over recent years by Australian complaints of Chinese interference in its politics. China has consistently denied the accusations.

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A document lodged in the High Court on Sep 1 by the Australian Government Solicitor is the first official acknowledgement that the investigation into an alleged plot to influence an Australian politician centred on China.

READ: Australia faces down China in high-stakes strategy

The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation have declined to comment on whether a raid on the offices of a New South Wales state politician and his staffer on Jun 26 was related to China.

But the court filing stated the search warrant used by police identifies the foreign principal as the “Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC)".

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John Zhang, who worked for New South Wales Labour politician Shaoquett Moselmane, has asked the High Court to quash the search warrants used to search his home, business and Moselmane's parliament office.

The government's court document, signed off by Australia's Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue, was lodged the day after it warned Australian journalists working in China to leave for safety reasons.

In the government's Sep 1 filing, the government solicitor stated there was "no doubt that the suspected offences related to the plaintiff's dealings with the Hon Shaoquett Moselmane MLC, allegedly on behalf of the People's Republic of China (PRC), from about Jul 1, 2019 to about Jun 25, 2020, in order to advance the interests and policy goals of the PRC".

The Chinese government has said the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation searched four Chinese journalists in Australia in June.

READ: Beijing accuses Australia of harassment of Chinese journalists

READ: Australia defends intelligence raids as spat with China escalates

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